(Editor's note: The ninth annual Jewish Film Series presented by the Jewish Federation of the Quad-Cities begins Sunday, Aug. 21, continues the next two Sundays, skips Sept. 11 and concludes Sept. 18. All films will be shown at 4 p.m. at the Figge Art Museum Auditorium, 225 W. 2nd St., Davenport. Admission is $5 for adults, with free admission for students. All of the films have won multiple awards, and all have adult content. For more information, call (309) 793-1300 or visit www.jfqc.org.)
"La Rafle" was a hit in France, and now you have a chance to see what Europe was raving about last year.
"La Rafle" (The Roundup) is a French film that, in a manner similar to "Schindler's List," tells a story of the Holocaust that has never been told onscreen (and one with which I was admittedly unfamiliar).
Director Roselyne Bosch, a former investigative journalist, researched this ugly part of history that occurred during 1942 in occupied Paris. French police and Nazis gathered up 13,000 Jews and forced them into the Winter Velodrome gymnasium before they were taken to a transit camp and then, eventually, to extermination camps. Of the 13,000, only 25 survived.
The dramatization is told through the viewpoints of several people, including a Jewish boy named Joseph (Hugo Leverdez); Annette (Melanie Laurent, who is familiar to American audiences for her role in "Inglourious Basterds"), a nurse at the Velodrome; and a Jewish doctor named David (Jean Reno, who also will be recognizable to American viewers for his starring role in "The Professional.")
At first, the movie shows life under pressure for Jewish citizens. Although they work, attend school and go about their lives, they are being forced to wear yellow stars and endure hostile glances and snarls from some of their neighbors. Gradually, the Jews are banned from parks, from teaching and from walking the streets at certain hours.
It's horrific to see the Jewish families being dragged away from their homes in the middle of the night. One young mother, with her infant in her arms, leaps to her death rather than face whatever fate would have befallen her.
Annette arrives completely naive about what she is soon to see when assigned to the Velodrome. She is shocked to confront so many sick, sometimes dying, people before her. The single doctor there befriends her and tries to help her survive the overwhelming needs of their patients.
To give the movie an authentic feel, many of the images from the movie are based on actual photos and film taken by Hitler's longtime companion, Eva Braun, and other photographers of the era. Hitler is depicted by Udo Schenk in a performance so realistic it may give you chills.
Although the film is difficult to watch as families are separated and central characters head toward their doom, it deserves to be seen, just as the real-life victims deserve to be remembered.
Rated: Unrated, but similar to a PG-13 for violence, foul language and sexual situations
Running time: Two hours
Director: Roselyne Bosch
Stars: Gad Elmaleh, Hugo Leverdez, Jean Reno, Melanie Laurent and Sylvie Testud
In French, with English subtitles