Portside Film Reviews - Sarah's Key, Between Two Worlds and
* "Sarah's Key" looks at Holocaust's lasting impact (Bob
Tourtellotte in Retuers)
* Film Chronicles American Jews Caught Between Two Worlds
(Eleanor J. Bader, in Truthout )
* Harry Potter: Jo's Other Ending (Jo (J.K.) Rowling as told
to Greg Palast and the Palast twins in GregPalast.com)
"Sarah's Key" looks at Holocaust's lasting impact
by Bob Tourtellotte
July 22, 2011
Los Angeles (Reuters) - Seven decades have passed since
French police arrested thousands of Parisian Jews and sent
them to death camps in an incident known as the Vel' d'Hiv
roundup, but for some, the guilt still lingers.
French film "Sarah's Key," which opens in major U.S. cities
on Friday after touching audiences in many European
countries, looks at the notion of national remorse and its
impact not only on the people who lived through it, but
their families and offspring who, in many cases, never even
knew it happened.
Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner is loathe to call "Sarah's
Key" a Holocaust movie in the vein of Steven Spielberg's
"Schindler's List," for instance, because his film is not so
much about the event as its impact on a contemporary family.
And while Vel' d'Hiv took place during World War II,
genocide still happens in modern times in places such as
"Young people can relate to it because history is not
represented as this abstract thing you have to learn in
books," Paquet-Brenner told Reuters. "They understand that
something which seemed so far from them could be right
around the corner."
It's a scary thought, but one that "Sarah's Key" puts front-
and-center for today's audiences.
The movie is adapted from the French novel "Elle s'appelait
Sarah," which had an English-language version that became a
New York Times bestseller.
It begins with the July, 1942 roundup at Vel' d'Hiv and
focuses on one family, their 10-year-old daughter Sarah and
her brother whom she locks in a closet to hide from the
Sarah escapes from the camp where she is sent only to
discover the horror of what the French, under Nazi rule, did
to their own people and Sarah's family, in particular.
But the tale is not about Sarah. Rather, it follows a modern
U.S. journalist named Julia Jarmond (played by Kristin Scott
Thomas) who is married to a Frenchman whose family owns the
apartment where, years ago, Sarah locked away her brother.
Jarmond is researching the Vel' d'Hiv and comes upon Sarah's
story and soon her own life changes due to her feelings over
Through the film, audiences feel the French national guilt
over the German roundups of Jews in France, but more
importantly, they see the impact that roundup still has
today on an American woman and the man she meets during her
journey -- Sarah's grown son (played by Aidan Quinn).
"There is a sentence in the movie," which Paquet-Brenner
says sums up his feelings about Julia's story: "Sometimes we
have to forget the statistics, and give a face to that"
event. And that is what "Sarah's Key" attempts to do.
So far, critics seem to agree. The movie scores a 76 percent
positive rating on movie review website Rottentomatoes.com.
Writing for showbusiness website TheWrap, critic Alonso
Duralde calls the film, "a compelling tale about a chapter
of history that plenty of people would no doubt prefer we'd
(Editing by Jill Serjeant)
Film Chronicles American Jews Caught Between Two Worlds
by: Eleanor J. Bader,
Truthout Movie Review
July 23, 2011
"Between Two Worlds"
Produced and directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman
Edited by Kenji Yamamoto
People often look surprised when I tell them that my first
exposure to progressive ideas came from Congregation B'Nai
Israel, a reform temple in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I
remember the shul's packed auditorium the night Gloria
Steinem spoke, and I can still call up the I-want-to-be-
like-her feelings that her eloquence aroused. Under the
tutelage of Rabbi Arnold Sher, our youth group studied
apartheid and wrote letters in solidarity with African
National Congress (ANC) freedom fighters. We also marched
against hunger and celebrated civil and human rights
But we never criticized Israel. Instead, I was taught that
the Jewish state was a land without people for a people
without land, and I obediently contributed my babysitting
money to plant trees so that the desert might bloom.
Years later, when I learned about the Nakba, the truth
stung. Worse, when I tried to discuss Palestinian rights, I
was derided for being a self-hating Jew.
Sadly, the silencing of dissent over Israeli politics has a
long and sordid history. Casualties abound: Professor Norman
Finkelstein, author of "The Holocaust Industry," was denied
tenure by DePaul University in 2007 following a vitriolic
campaign lambasting his scholarship. Adjunct professor
Kristofer Petersen-Overton, a student at the Graduate Center
of the City University of New York (CUNY), came under fire
in 2010 for "spurious scholarship," a charge his supporters
believe was a direct outgrowth of his outspoken criticism of
Israel's occupation of Gaza. And this spring, Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner was deemed ineligible
for an honorary degree from New York City's John Jay College
of Criminal Justice after trustee Jeffrey S. Wiesenfeld
accused Kushner of being disloyal to Israel. Kushner's
offense? Suggesting that Israel discriminated against
Kushner won this skirmish - ultimately receiving the degree
thanks to an international outcry - as did Petersen-Overton,
but the Israel: Love It or Be Silent Movement continues to
lash out at critics of Zion.
Indeed, on June 15, 2011, FrontPage Magazine - an
unabashedly right-wing publication - published a list of
"Jewish enemies of Israel." On the roster were more than a
dozen people, including Joel Beinin, Jeremy Ben-Ami, Noam
Chomsky, Neve Gordon, Michael Lerner, Amos Oz, Eyal Sivan,
Steven Spielberg and, of course, Tony Kushner.
"Between Two Worlds," Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman's
provocative film about Jewish-American identity in the 21st
century, opens with another searing example of the quashing
of dissent. The scene is the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film
Festival, an annual event that, since 1981, had drawn more
than 35,000 filmgoers a year. The festival's executive
director Peter Stein, who plans to leave his post later this
year, opened the event by asking the audience to consider
what makes a particular piece of celluloid "a Jewish film."
Before he finished his speech, the heckling began: a vocal
group of audience members was dismayed that a laudatory film
about Rachel Corrie, a young American who died in 2003 while
protesting the Israeli bulldozing of Palestinian homes, was
"I did not expect it to blow up into the firestorm that it
did," Stein admits to the filmmakers. What's more, he did
not expect the barrage of hate mail that he received. The
film zooms in on his computer screen and highlights several
particularly hateful phrases: anti-Semite; fool; demon; and
tool of forces that wish to undermine Israel, among them.
The film further interrogates several additional recipients
of community ire. Daniel Sokatch, former CEO of the Jewish
Community Federation of San Francisco, a funder of the
festival, describes being told that contributions to the
federation would cease unless he denounced the movie. He
calls it "neo-McCarthyism" and notes the chilling effect
such threats have had on community discussions.
Cecilie Surasky, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace,
a group that supports boycott, divestment and sanctions
(BDS) against Israel, knows that BDS is contentious. At the
same time, she argues that the fight for justice is at the
heart of what it means to be Jewish. For Surasky, the
Talmudic injunction to repair the world is not idle talk,
and she states that even if members of the Jewish community
disagree with the BDS strategy, the concept of equality, and
what it means for Palestinian and Jewish coexistence, needs
to be vigorously examined.
Snitow and Kaufman agree, and "Between Two Worlds" is at its
best when articulating questions that are central to the
lives of contemporary American Jews. Who gets to decide what
being Jewish is or isn't? they ask. Who determines what can
be debated and what topics are off limits?
Unfortunately, the film never fully answers these questions,
opting instead to address a vast array of personal and
political themes, from the community's anxieties over
assimilation, to intermarriage, to post-Holocaust anti-
Semitism. This focus makes "Between Two Worlds" more
episodic than conclusive. In fact, the film scratches the
surface of multiple subjects rather than homing in on
That said, I found several scenes particularly compelling -
albeit disturbing. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal
Center in Los Angeles is the firebrand behind the planned
construction of a $250 million Holocaust memorial and Museum
of Tolerance in West Jerusalem. His passionate defense of
the center's decision to raze an 800-year-old Muslim
cemetery to erect the Frank Gehry-designed building is
Others interviewed by Kaufman and Snitow are appalled by
Hier's cavalier attitude. "Allowing this construction
destroys the hope that Jerusalem can be a city of peace,"
says journalist Gershon Baskin.
Rabbi Irwin Kula of the National Jewish Center for Learning
and Leadership champions ongoing efforts to educate young
people about the Nazi Holocaust. Nonetheless, he cautions
that there is a downside to the continual focus on
atrocities. "The dangerous thing about the Holocaust, about
being abused, is that you go insular and tribal and look at
everyone through the prism of, 'They are my enemy,'" he
It's a sobering assessment. A subsequent scene moves viewers
to the campus of the University of California-Berkeley,
where students were at loggerheads over a proposal to divest
from Israel. Although the bid was defeated in the spring of
2010, the polarization between Israel's largely Jewish
supporters and largely Muslim detractors is gut-churning,
and one can't help but wonder what it will take to get these
parties to hear one another.
There are clearly no easy solutions.
"Judaism does not have a specific politics," Rabbi Kula
concludes. "Its job is to undermine any politics that
becomes too absolute."
Perhaps that's the best we can hope for, that an anti-
authoritarian ethos will keep the morally rigid at bay, so
that the voice of dissent can continue to prod the
uncritical. Call me an idealist, but I hope we can do better
than this and forge a community that values human beings
regardless of class, race, ethnic heritage or religious
beliefs. Yes, I know that this is most likely a pipe dream
A few days ago, a cartoon landed in my inbox. It depicted a
man holding an ax and wearing a T-shirt with an Israeli flag
on it. The man was approaching a firebox. The tag line: "In
case of criticism of Israel, scream anti-Semite."
I laughed, because in the end, there's nothing to be gained
***"Between Two Worlds" will be shown from August
5-11 at The Roxie in San Francisco. For more
information, email [log in to unmask] or visit
www.btwthemovie.org. The film is also on Facebook,
[Eleanor J. Bader is a freelance writer, teacher and
feminist activist from Brooklyn, New York. She writes for
The Brooklyn Rail, ontheissuesmagazine.com,
RHrealitycheck.org and other progressive blogs and
Harry Potter: Jo's Other Ending
By Jo (J.K.) Rowling as told to Greg Palast and the Palast
July 19, 2011
Some of you may recall that, years ago, when I lived in
England, writing for The Guardian, when I shared the
bestseller list with Jo Rowling (she at the pinnacle, me in
the valley), we became buds through my twins' love for her
But Jo knows that I found the conclusion of her series a
sorry let-down, a second-rate "Show Down at the OK Corral"
for Wizards. In my opinion (and she does not at all agree),
Jo was too distracted by a concern for how the ending would
play on film.
I bugged her about it until she told me the "other" endings.
Every author has them - and we all look over our old drafts,
after publication, and say, "Damn! I should have used that
version" - then we lock it away before someone sees it and
No, Jo wouldn't show me typed copies, but she told me a
couple of "I could have done this" endings.
One of them knocked me over, and I have to share it. (Sorry
Jo, that's the danger of befriending an investigative
reporter - if you forget to use the magical words, "This is
off the record.") I can understand, though, why she would
put aside this quieter, yet far more harrowing, conclusion.
I wrote it down that night in October 2007. I don't claim
that this is exactly word-for-word as she told it to me (Jo:
please edit!) and I left out all the side stuff about me
telling my oblivious kids, "You really should listen to
this; years from now you'll want to say you heard this," and
the minor mishap with my coffee.
But I just have to put it out here and hope that Jo and her
publisher don't slam me with an Avada Kedavra curse.
I'll assume you've read the books - and if you haven't, for
shame! - so I won't introduce this at all except to say that
this alternative (and quite troubling) ending veers away
from the printed and film versions just before Harry's final
confrontation with The Dark Lord, Voldemort.
And please: If you want to say that I didn't get her voice
and story details exactly, keep in mind that I'm working
from mental notes - and that I'm no J.K. Rowling. But then,
no one is.
To the Forbidden Forest
Harry marched toward the field where Voldemort waited with
his pack of Dementors. Harry's scar burned brutally, saving
him the pain of thinking too deeply about his decision,
likely to bring him nothing but death.
What special evil, what deadly and devious spell had the
Dark Lord prepared for Harry's destruction? Voldemort had
hunted after Harry for more than a decade; doubtless
Voldemort would arm himself with a special curse far more
powerful and final than the Avada Kedavra which had failed
to kill Harry as a child.
Harry was terribly right. The Dark Lord, in his clearing in
the Forbidden Forest, was preparing a charm as devastating
as Harry feared, and far more horrific. As Harry marched to
this fated meeting, Voldemort passed his wand among the icy
Dementors, commanding each to lay their Kiss upon it.
Voldemort, in those pained, lonely nights of his exile and
recovery, had conceived of a way to hurl a Dementor's kiss
from his wand, the kiss that would take away the soul of its
victim forever. And now he would blast Harry with hundreds
of them. Voldemort's reward would be greater than watching
Harry's burial. He would have Harry frozen in place,
Harry's living being encased for eternity at the moment of
Harry's ultimate humiliation and defeat, a terrifying
monument to Voldemort's victory for all to see for all time.
Voldemort's joy rose with every Dementor's kiss to his wand.
Harry could feel their grave-like cold as he approached and
the pull of their despair. It was hopeless, and he was
helpless in the face of it. And he knew it.
But then, Harry felt the presence of a young man and woman,
though he could not see them. These two ghosts lovingly
held his body up and raised his spirit. It was, he was
certain, the last remaining life-force of his parents,
making one last sacrifice by joining him on his final
journey. He allowed himself a moment of peaceful happiness,
feeling them so close.
Then he stopped. Harry shivered with a deep chill of
recognition. They were not his parents. They were
Voldemort's: the young Tom Riddle and his bride who, for
this occasion, had taken back her beautiful maid's
countenance. They said, using no words, "Our dearest son, we
will not allow you to be harmed."
Were their words for him? Or for Voldemort? Somehow, it
didn't seem to matter - they seemed so kind when he needed
nothing more at this moment than a parent's love.
Harry, and the two warm spirits becoming more visible,
approached the edge of the swirling crowd of Voldemort's
followers, who parted, preparing to give the victim an easy
corridor to his doom.
Voldemort's wand had returned to his white, skeletal hand.
The Dark Lord pointed it confidently to where Harry would
surely emerge from the crowd, not yet to destroy Potter but
to hold him while he prepared to give Harry an oration on
the eternal punishment about to strike him.
Voldemort laughed when Harry stumbled through. But when the
Dark Lord saw the specters of his parents, he howled as if
cut in half. With his furious heart in flames, Voldemort
immediately unleashed the deadly Kisses, bellowing, "Oppugno
Mortimbessios!" And all the vile terrors of the Dementors,
in an unstoppable flash from his wand, rushed toward Harry
and the spirits at his side.
It was only a hundredth of a second for Voldemort's curse to
reach Harry. But somehow the world seemed to slow down, the
Earth ceased to rotate; all on the planet held still, though
Harry was aware he was free to move. Harry had planned every
shield charm for his defense, but all now were clearly
useless. Harry found himself unable to do more than calmly
bend to one knee and bow his head, preparing to accept the
force of the blow and his death and end.
As he kneeled, in that quiet moment outside time, the two
shadows flew from him toward Voldemort. And Voldemort
changed. The Dementors' chill wind, and Time, moved
backward; and there was Voldemort, growing to his younger,
more potent, frightening self.
The curse struck Harry's scar, obliterating it, then, in a
loud roar, he felt the crushing pain of his skull opening,
and then the shrieking curse rushing from his head - back
toward the wand that sent it.
As the curse turned back toward him, Voldemort continued to
grow younger still, until he was a little child again with
his mother and father at his side. When they realized the
full force of Voldemort's own spell was about to strike him,
his parents put their reassuring arms around their son to
protect him from this ultimate blow.
And then it struck. And now the three entwined souls, Tom
Riddle, his wife and young child, would remain forever
entombed in that one moment, never able to leave.
And never wanting to.
Hogwarts AD 2130
The headmaster, his stringy white beard uncombed and his
wrinkled, bald head topped by a drooping wizard's cap,
looked with wistful gratitude at the empty picture frame
he'd convinced the Ministry to put up, despite their
reluctance. He knew he'd soon be residing in that little
square etched with the name, "Harry Potter," separated from
Albus Dumbledore's only by the portraits of Headmistresses
McGonagall and Chang.
The old wizard could hear below the school abuzz with
preparations for his 150th birthday. He shifted Ginny, a
bird of paradise, to a perch nearer his desk. His wife,
rather than grow old, had turned herself into this beautiful
bird, but still insisted on giving un-birdlike advice.
"Harry, dearest, you can't miss your own birthday party.
And it's so lovely outside."
Indeed, the summer day had brought out scores of picnickers
who had come to set their baskets and blankets out near the
warm light cast by the living statue of the happy family
with the little child. No one but the old headmaster knew
who was encased in that glowing sphere. When the Dementors
were released from the spell of Voldemort, they, and indeed
every wizard excepting Harry and the shade of Albus, were
cleansed of all memory of the Dark Lord. Now, after more
than a century, curiosity about the family in the statue had
long ago ceased. Harry had simply ordered a plaque placed
there. It said only, "Riddles."
"I will go," he told his feathered wife, "but I have to keep
an eye on the boy for a bit." Harry's great, great
grandson, not yet able to walk, silently played on the rug
with his chocolate frog. Then suddenly, in inexplicable
anger, little Tom crushed the candy animal. Harry watched
this, and knew the whole world would soon darken again for
generations to come.
[Investigative journalist Greg Palast's reports can be seen
on BBC Television Newsnight or at www.GregPalast.com. Your
thoughts on this other ending for the HP series welcome at
the Greg Palast Facebook page. Palast's new book, Vultures'
Picnic, will be published by Penguin USA in November 2011.
Follow Palast on Facebook
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