Yesterday I watched the documentary “Night Will Fall” on HBO. The documentary is the film history of the concentration camps during World War II. It is a compilation of military films taken when the camps were liberated. There were people in England and America who had the idea of putting together a film of what happened in those camps so that people would never forget. Unfortunately, that film collided with the politics of the late 1940’s and was never made. Alfred Hitchcock and Sidney Bernstein were involved in putting together the film, but it was not finished or released.
According to the HBO Documentaries page:
When British, Soviet and American forces liberated Nazi concentration camps in 1945, army and newsreel cameramen recorded the terrible discoveries they made. Later, Sidney Bernstein of the British government’s Ministry of Information and his team, including supervising director Alfred Hitchcock, drew on this footage, shot at Bergen-Belsen, Dachau and Auschwitz, to create a harrowing film titled “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey.”
NIGHT WILL FALL reveals the previously untold story of this deeply moving documentary when it debuts exclusively on HBO. Narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, directed by André Singer (executive producer of “The Act of Killing”) and produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner (the “Rush Hour” series, “X Men: The Last Stand,” “Hercules”), the film juxtaposes horrific raw footage and scenes from the 1945 documentary with insights from the survivors, the soldiers who liberated them and the filmmakers who recorded these appalling images. Marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, NIGHT WILL FALL will have an encore presentation Tuesday, Jan. 27 on HBO2, when networks around the globe will also present it.
Despite the 1945 documentary’s artistic pedigree, the initial support it received, and the use of some of the most riveting concentration-camp footage ever shot, Bernstein’s project has not been widely seen. NIGHT WILL FALL tells the incredible story behind the film, featuring interviews with concentration-camp survivors, several of whom identify younger versions of themselves in the footage, as well as archival interviews with Bernstein (who later founded Granada Television), Hitchcock and director Billy Wilder.
In the 1980s, original reels and notes from the documentary, which had been stored since 1952 in the archives at the Imperial War Museums (IWM) in London, were combined with a commentary read by actor Trevor Howard. However, the final reel was missing.
Four years ago, the IWM began an ambitious project to digitize, restore and complete “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” including the never-before-seen sixth reel. The finished film features heartbreaking interviews with survivors, soldiers, historians and archivists, which are presented along with unflinching, restored, rarely-seen archival footage and eyewitness testimony. NIGHT WILL FALL provides a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at how this forgotten documentary was made, and how it has finally been completed after 70 years.
NIGHT WILL FALL is directed by Andre Singer; produced by Sally Angel and Brett Ratner for a RatPac Documentary Films Presentation; narrator, Helena Bonham Carter; narrator for “German Concentration Camps Factual Survey,” Jasper Britton; executive producers, Richard Melman, James Packer and Stephen Frears; written by Lynette Singer; director of photography, Richard Blanshard; editors, Arik Lahav-Leibovich and Stephen Miller; composer, Nicholas Singer.
This is not a movie to sit down and watch casually over coffee, nor is it a movie I would recommend for children under sixteen, but it is a movie worth watching. If you have HBO or HBO on demand, I would strongly recommend taking the time to watch this movie.