Two documentaries available for streaming beginning on Oct. 7 on OVID.tv provide disturbing reminders of the toll of fascism and the danger of its resurgence.
As seen in Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, and Nicole Newnham’s “The Rape of Europa,” (2006) the Third Reich sought to dominate Europe not only by conquest and extermination but also by pillaging and erasing cultural treasures.
In 1907, three candidates — Oskar Kokoschka, Egon Schiele, and Adolf Hitler — applied to the Academy of Fine Arts, in Vienna. The first two were accepted. Hitler, famously, was not. When he came to power in Germany in 1933 he made sure that artists like Schiele and Kokoschka would be purged from museums and galleries and only the kitsch he favored would be exhibited. The Nazis went on to steal priceless art objects from Jewish owners, ransacked the museums of conquered countries, and shipped trainloads of masterpieces to the Reich.
Berger, Newnham, and Cohen retrace this shameful history and the mission of the US Army’s Monuments Men to track down, recover, and return the stolen objects. They also focus on Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” and the six-year campaign by Maria Altmann, the niece of the portrait’s subject, to regain possession of the painting from Austria’s national gallery. Despite such successes, thousands of works remain missing, perhaps forever.
In one poignant scene in “The Rape of Europa,” Altmann, who was living in Vienna in 1938 when Germany annexed Austria, says, “Austrians talk now about being victims. They were never victims. It was a royal welcome.” That observation is repeated in Ruth Beckermann’s “The Waldheim Waltz” (2018), a documentary about the troubling Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim, former UN secretary general.
In 1986 Waldheim was campaigning for the Austrian presidency when investigations by the World Jewish Congress uncovered records of his membership in Nazi organizations. Further investigations turned up evidence of his service in a Wehrmacht unit that committed massacres and other war crimes.
Waldheim immediately went on the defensive, denying the charges, accusing the organization of conducting a smear campaign, and invoking what one interviewee calls the “myth” of Austrian innocence and suffering during the war — methods of gaslighting and victim-playing all too familiar today. Beckermann, a filmmaker who was part of a movement against Waldheim at the time, includes her own footage among the archival material used in the movie and it reveals how the controversy exposed the anti-Semitism still virulent in Austria. In one shocking sequence Waldheim supporters resort to the kind of vilification of Jews that would not have been out of place in 1938.
Waldheim won the election and served out his six-year term. In 1987 the US government put Waldheim on its Nazi Watchlist, barring him from entering the country.
Three generations of pain
In a tearful parting the title subject of Jessica Earnshaw’s “Jacinta” embraces her mother, Rosemary, and heads out on her own. The two have been incarcerated together in the Maine Correctional Center; and now Jacinta has been released to a halfway house, where she battles for sobriety. She is determined to kick her heroin addiction so she can regain custody of her 10-year-old daughter, Caylynn.
Filmed over a period of three years, the Hulu documentary shows how Rosemary, herself a victim of an abusive childhood, had entangled Jacinta in her demimonde of drugs, crime, and prostitution and dragged her in and out of the prison system. This time Jacinta hopes to stay straight and restore her bond with Caylynn, whom she had surrendered to the care of the child’s paternal grandparents.
Earnshaw’s intimate access to Jacinta vividly shows her torturous struggle to resist the drug. In one excruciating and heartbreaking sequence, the filmmaker accompanies Jacinta as she visits Caylynn. After the emotional reunion with her daughter, Jacinta is distraught and finally tells Earnshaw to stop filming while she visits a dealer and ends her brief period of sobriety. Soon she has no qualms about shooting up on camera and begins what seems a hopeless downward spiral. A powerful portrait of victims of the generational cycle of poverty and abuse, “Jacinta” dramatizes with profoundly moving detail the insidious plague of opioid addiction and its impact on families.
“Jacinta” can be streamed on Hulu beginning Oct. 8. Go to www.hulu.com.
The ocean’s bounty
Could the lowly dogfish save the Gloucester fishing industry? How about the gnarly monkfish, a favorite in Europe but a hard sell in the United States, despite a savory recipe once featured on Julia Child’s “The French Chef”? As Darby Duffin and Adam Jones’s “Fish & Men” argues, such diversification is necessary now that the population of cod, the staple of Gloucester fishermen for generations, has plummeted. At the same time so has the American market for American produced seafood — not only is 91 percent of it imported from other countries, but much of that is American-caught, transported overseas to be processed, and sent back here to be sold.
The film is a comprehensive look at the conflict between the sustainability of the codfish population and the survival of the local family-owned cod-fishing industry. It investigates factors such as the accuracy of measuring fish populations, the devastation wreaked by factory trawlers, the debasement of the American palate by such mass-produced items as frozen fish sticks, the convoluted logistics of globalism, and the impact of climate change.
A potential step to mitigating the problem is the “Catch of the Day” movement, promoting a taste for types of fish beyond the handful of species that dominate the American market. But getting bouillabaisse on family plates is just a start. The stakes are not just local but global, and the filmmakers travel from Gloucester and its beleaguered fisherman to locations around the world to investigate the extent of the crisis and its ramifications.
Peter Keough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.