Defiance

1,800 JEWS ARE SAVED FROM EXTERMINATION IN DEFIANCE
Knowing that the Nazis are rounding you up because you are Jewish, what would you do? The conventional answer—flight or passive acceptance of fate—leaves out resistance as an option. In Byelorussia, one form of resistance was to hide in a forest (though filming is in Lithuania). Defiance brings that true story to the screen from the book Defiance: The Bielski Partisans by Nechama Tec. Directed by Edward Zwick, the film Defiance has some similarity to the director’s early film Glory (1990), which won a Political Film Society nomination in the category Human Rights. The film provides details of the perils of Nazi pursuit, bountyhunting Byelorussian police collaborators, a few battle scenes, nature’s bitter cold, and inadequate food and is definitely not for the fainthearted. The Bielski brothers, leaders of the encampment who were formerly thieves and smugglers, clash as well. Zus Bielski (played by Live Schreiber) prefers revengefully to shoot as many Nazis as he can, so for a time he joins up with the Soviet resistance led by anti-Semitic Soviet People’s Army leader Viktor Panchenko (played by Ravil Isyanov). Tuvia Bielski (played by Daniel Craig) provides practical rules by which the community can live together, particularly when the foodhunter men insist on eating larger portions to eat than the foodpreparers and foodeaters. Sometimes the brothers are united, sometimes divided. Their younger third brother, Assael (played by Jamie Bell), does not know with whom to take sides but ultimately acts heroically. Titles at the end inform filmviewers that the community built a school and a hospital. The strength of Jewish culture, which has survived against lesser odds, is the main message of the film, which has been nominated for best film exposé of 2008. MH