Keeping his example alive

A documentary on the life of Simon Wiesenthal makes its debut at the Berlin Film Festival.

simon wiesenthal 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy photo)
simon wiesenthal 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy photo)
A documentary on the life of Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal made its debut at the Berlin film festival Saturday, drawing on footage of Wiesenthal himself, his family, friends and others in an effort portray the man and his mission. Narrated by Nicole Kidman, I Have Never Forgotten You - The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal was directed by Richard Trank, the executive producer of Moriah Films, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center's film department. The center's dean and founder, Rabbi Marvin Hier, co-wrote the script. Wiesenthal died in Vienna in 2005 at age 96. He drew on his own memories of surviving the Holocaust to fight for justice for its victims, dedicating himself to tracking down Nazi war criminals. On hearing of his death, "I knew that we had to make this film about him," Trank told reporters after Saturday's screening. He said he hoped the movie would "keep his example alive." "There were a lot of different films that had been made about Simon, but it was about the work," he added. "I wanted a full picture." To do that, the filmmakers spoke with Wiesenthal's daughter, Pauline, and his friends. They unearthed material from archives in Austria and elsewhere - including rare footage of his wife, Cyla, talking about their long relationship. The movie, showing outside the main competition in Berlin, also features reminiscences from actor Ben Kingsley, who recalled working with and playing Wiesenthal in the 1989 film Murderers Among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Story. "Because the man exercised every cell of his body and every atom of his reason to tell the truth, and ask the world to share in that immutable truth... the least I could do was be as obsessive as he was," Kingsley, who won a best-actor Oscar in 1983 for Gandhi, said Saturday. As well as focusing on the people close to him, the movie recalls Wiesenthal's turbulent relationship with Austria, where he was often ignored and insulted before being honored for his work when he was in his 80s. A survivor of 12 Nazi camps who had trained as an architect, Wiesenthal changed his life's mission after the war. Enlisted by the Americans to research war criminals, Wiesenthal carried on long after Allied forces lost interest. Perhaps best known for helping find one-time SS leader Adolf Eichmann, he spent more than 50 years hunting Nazi war criminals and speaking out against neo-Nazism and racism. Trank said the film has distributors in Germany and the U.S., and "sometime in the late spring we're looking at a theatrical release." It also is intended to be used in schools. (AP)