by Jim Ridley
Sandra Schulberg — the daughter of the director who assembled one of the past century's most important film documents — will be at The Belcourt 7 p.m. Saturday to present the restoration she supervised of her father's film. The title is Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, and few films have more right to Woodrow Wilson's perhaps apocryphal description of The Birth of a Nation as "history written with lightning."
Schulberg's father, Stuart Schulberg, was part of a special OSS unit that John Ford commanded during World War II, dispatched to seek out footage the Third Reich had shot throughout World War II. (So was his brother and Sandra's uncle, Budd Schulberg, author of the quintessential Hollywood novel What Makes Sammy Run? and the classic screenplays for On the Waterfront and A Face in the Crowd.) This footage would be used, famously, as evidence during the Nuremberg trials — essentially hanging the Nazis with their own celluloid.
Stuart Schulberg was asked to film the Nuremberg proceedings and shape the footage into a documentary. As the film's website explains:
The film shows how the international prosecutors built their case against the top Nazi war criminals using the Nazis’ own films and records. The trial established the “Nuremberg Principles,” laying the foundation for all subsequent trials for crimes against the peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Its original release was suppressed by the US government. A Washington Post story headlined “Army Reluctant To Clarify Inaction On Nuernberg Film” (September 19, 1949), interpreted the Pentagon’s opposition as follows: “…there are those in authority in the United States who feel that Americans are so simple that they can hate only one enemy at a time. Forget the Nazis, they advise, and concentrate on the Reds.” Concern about whether the film might turn Americans against the rebuilding of Germany, a policy that was integral to the Marshall Plan, seems to have been played a role as well.
The movie plays through Tuesday, but Sandra Schulberg will only be here for Saturday night's show — and it should be worth rearranging your plans.