Uprising (2001) TV Movie on the Rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943

Uprising is a made for TV movie based on the true account of the rebellion in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. A group of young and very determined Jewish people managed to do what some of the biggest armies weren’t capable of doing, namely fighting back the Nazi’s for a few weeks. It’s not a flawless production, some of the dialogue is  a bit “What-the-Heck”, including the fact that all the actors talk with a heavy accent, but apart from that I found it very interesting. The actors are mostly good and it focuses on a few historical facts I hadn’t known too much about and that I found very interesting. I can only hope it’s accurate. At least it felt so.

The movie begins with the Germans entering Poland and Warsaw and forcing all the Jews to live in the ghetto. They endure famine, illness, daily abuse. The conditions in the ghetto are harrowing. The most controversial role is played by Donald Sutherland as Adam Czerniakow, head of the Jewish council. He thought that by collaborating with the Germans he could save the Jews from being deported. When he realized his error and the daily transports to Treblinka started, he committed suicide.

The rebellion is led by Mordeachai Anielewicz (Hank Azaria), Yitzhak Zuckerman (David Schwimmer),  Kazik Rotem (Stephen Moyer) Tosia Altman (Leelee Sobieski) and Mira Fruchner (Radha Mitchell). The danger to smuggle out information from the ghetto to the Polish side and weapons back in, is shown in great detail. Those people were incredibly courageous. Still they had to fight at lot of internal opposition. The Jewish Council didn’t want to support them as nobody wanted to believe that the camps were extermination camps. When they finally coudln’t doubt this anymore and Czerniakow had committed suicide, more and more people joined them. At first they planned little terror attacks until the Nazi’s seent tanks to erase them.  The Nazi leader Stroop is played by Jon Voight, accompanied by filmmaker Dr.Hippler (Cary Elwes), who was responsible for propaganda. In Goebbel’s name he films The Eternal Jew – Der Ewige Jude, a horrible piece of shit that should help make Germans hate the Jews, as – according to Goebbels  – they were not sufficiently anti-Semitic.

The movie can’t be compared to The Pianist, that’s for sure, but it’s well worth watching and quite informative too. David Schwimmer is surprisingly good in this and so are most of the other actors. Many, I’m sure,  will be delighted to see Stephen Moyer in his pre True Blood days.

It’s often been said that it was hard to understand that the Jews didn’t fight back. This movie shows why they didn’t or couldn’t and what happened when they did and how incredibly difficult it was to organize a rebellion. Most of these young people didn’t make it but some did. Their story is a testimony of how courageous people can be.

Escape from Huang Shi aka The Children of Huang Shi (2008)

Believe it or not but Escape from Huang Shi is an Australian, Chinese, German co-production telling the true story of a British journalist. What a combination. This gives the movie a very authentic feel, especially due to the fact that we hear as much Chinese as English (and some Japanese).

If anyone has liked the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon as much as I did (I think it is one of the best movies ever. One could almost call it a martial-arts fairytale), he or she will be pleased to see Michelle Yeoh and  Yun-Fat Chow in the same movie (however no joint scenes).

But this is not the only pleasant surprise of this quite enjoyable movie.

The story is similar to Welcome to Sarajevo, only this journalist here, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who is really good in this), is doing something even more courageous. He stays in the country to help the orphans.

It is absolutely incredible what some people are capable of doing even when facing adversity at its worst. This is a story of someone who was capable of overcoming his own fear, of reinventing a life for himself and a group of orphan boys and creating a home for them.

George Hogg, a young British journalist, arrives in China in 1937 finding the country being invaded by the Japanese. Air raids, floods of refugees on the streets, he´s afraid and thrilled at the same time hoping for the story of his life. He gets it only not the way he had hoped for. He soon sees himself in great danger and is led by an Australian nurse to Huang Shi. She leaves him there to struggle with famine, the depressions and aggressions of some 60 orphaned boys who have seen the worst and the insecurity of a life on the border of a war.

In wonderful pictures we see him overcome the urge to escape and help those children transform the barren land around them into a fertile garden. He is assisted in this  by a mysterious tradeswoman Madam Wang (Michelle Yeoh) who sells more than just seeds, by Chen (Yun-Fat Chow) the leader of a communist partisan group and of course the Australian nurse (Radha Mitchell) he is secretly in love with.

When the Japanese and the air raids start to approach Huang Shi, Hogg must make a decision. He wants to flee and take the children on a journey over 500 perilous miles across the snow-bound Liu Pan Shan mountains to safety on the edge of the Mongolian desert. This seems almost impossible to achieve.

The movie reminded me a little bit of  The Painted Veil (no, it is not a war movie). Same beautifully filmed landscapes. And those sumptuous  and, for us exotic, Chinese interiors of the time. The story is already quite captivating but the beauty of those landscapes alone would have been enough to enchant us.