- Director reignites Hitler film controversy
November 9, 2009
BERLIN: When intimate colour film of Adolf Hitler cuddling a pet dog and smiling as a baby reached out to play with his moustache was shown for the first time at the Cannes Film Festival 36 years ago, a scuffle broke out in the audience and the screening had to be abandoned.
The documentary, Swastika, by the Australian director Philippe Mora, contained never-before seen footage of Hitler entertaining friends, family and his inner circle - including Hermann Goering and Joseph Goebbels. Much of it was shot by his lover Eva Braun at Hitler's mountain home in Obersalzberg, Bavaria.
The documentary later opened in several countries, including the US, Britain and France, but despite widespread critical acclaim from the art critic Robert Hughes in Time, The Washington Post and Le Monde, it was mothballed and Germany banned it.
Last week, however, Swastika - and Mora - were warmly welcomed back to Berlin. Championed by the German documentary maker, Ilona Ziok, the film was shown in the cinema used by the Nazis in Berlin, opened the Biberach Film Festival in Munich and special screenings are planned in Dresden this week.
Mora, who is Jewish, has lived in Los Angeles for more than 20 years. He was just 22 and living in London when he proposed documenting the making of Albert Speer's book Inside the Third Reich into a US-backed feature movie by the British producers, David Puttnam and former Fox boss, Sandy Lieberson.
When Hollywood pulled out of the Speer project, its producers agreed to back Mora and his research partner, the German filmmaker Lutz Becker, to finish their own film about the Nazification of Germany. Four months into production in 1972 they had managed to unearth the startling new footage in Pentagon archives.
"I had seen a picture of Eva Braun in a book holding a 16mm camera and I immediately wondered where that film might have ended up," Mora told the Herald in Berlin this week.
In fact, Becker had also stumbled on a clue when he met, in 1973, an army officer at a party in Phoenix, Arizona.
The man had been in the force that took Obersalzberg and when Becker asked if he had found any film, he said there had been "a pile of cans"- that the US army troops looted as they plundered the Obersalzburg for whatever they could steal at that time.