SFJFF42 Special Preview: The U.S. and the Holocaust

SFJFF42 Special Preview

Screening followed by an extended conversation with filmmakers Ken Burns, Lynn Novick, and Sarah Botstein, moderated by Michael Krasny.

America’s response to one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history tested the ideals of democracy. The U.S. and the Holocaust sheds light on what the United States government and the American people knew and did as the catastrophe unfolded in Europe. By investigating events leading up to and during the Holocaust with fresh eyes, Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein dispel the competing myths that Americans either were ignorant of what was happening to Jews in Europe, or that they merely looked on with callous indifference. The truth is much more nuanced and complicated.

The film features a fascinating array of historical figures including President Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Dorothy Thompson, and Rabbi Stephen Wise, as well as Anne Frank and her family. We learn that the Frank family applied for, but failed to obtain, visas to the US before they went into hiding. Holocaust witnesses interviewed in the film include Guy Stern, who recently turned 100 years old. The U.S. and the Holocaust is narrated by Peter Coyote, with voice actors including Hope Davis, Paul Giamatti, Elliott Gould, Werner Herzog, Liam Neeson, Meryl Streep, Bradley Whitford, and Helena Zengel. Ultimately, the viewer is asked to think differently about history as the challenges that the American people confronted then raise questions that remain essential to society today, as our global community continues to face rising nativism, antisemitism, xenophobia, and racism.

The filmmakers have prepared a seamlessly edited 45-minute Special Preview of the three-part (six-hour) series. The U.S. and the Holocaust premieres on PBS September 18–20, 2022.

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for over forty years. Since the Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including The Civil War; Baseball; Jazz; The War; The National Parks: America’s Best Idea; The Roosevelts: An Intimate History; Jackie Robinson; The Vietnam War; and Country Music. Burns' films have been honored with dozens of major awards, including sixteen Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and two Academy Award nominations. In 2008 at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Burns was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lynn Novick has been making landmark documentary films about American life and culture, history, politics, sports, art, architecture, literature, and music for more than 30 years. She has created nearly 100 hours of acclaimed programming for PBS in collaboration with Ken Burns, including Ernest Hemingway, The Vietnam War, Baseball, Jazz, Frank Lloyd Wright, The War, and Prohibition. These landmark series have garnered 19 Emmy nominations. One of the most respected documentary filmmakers and storytellers in America, Novick herself has received Emmy, Peabody, and Alfred I. duPont Columbia Awards. 

Sarah Botstein has for more than two decades produced some of the most popular and acclaimed documentaries on PBS. Her work with directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, includes Hemingway, College Behind Bars, The Vietnam War, Prohibition, The War, and Jazz. The U.S. and the Holocaust is Botstein’s directorial debut. Currently, she is producing an epic six-part series on the American Revolution and a project on Lyndon Johnson’s life and presidency.

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Proof of vaccination is required for all indoor screenings. Masks are mandatory. Read more.

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