March 23rd, 2006

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Lent Day 22 "The Optimists" of Bulgaria

Currently playing in limited engagement is the documentary named “The Optimists.” The story line takes place in Bulgaria around the time of Sophie Scholl final days, 1943 anni domini.

This unique documentary interviews survivors of this Bulgarian community that was occupied by the Nazi leadership. Yet as Hitler forced his final solution upon the population, this Bulgarian community managed to survive this evil bureaucracy of Adolph Eichmann. “The Optimists” posed the question, “Why was this community able to survive when others did not?”

Perhaps the answer could be rooted in the community with shared common values. This population had managed to live in peace with one another for 1000 years previous to Hitler. There was definite unity through diversity because this Bulgarian population was divided between the Christians, Jews and Muslims.

With grainy color footage and interviews seemingly conducted with a family’s 16 millimeter projector, “The Optimists” is a piece of oral history. Like all oral history, interpretation can be divided. However an overall theme does emerge from “The Optimists,” that the basic tenets of the three great religions have more in common than not. It is a lesson that most religion pundits and media news organizations need to understand when they discuss modern issues like “Holy War.”

Both “The Optimists” and “Sophie “ are movies that demand patience of their audience. Both films pay off emotional upon each climax. Given the turbulent days that we live in, perhaps the virtue of patience has become a forgotten virtue.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Lent Day 22 "Sophie Scholl the Final Days"

As we mark the fourth year of the Iraqi occupation, one must acknowledge that in the United States of America, freedom of speech has NOT been lost in our popular culture. Most of the weekend news featured worldwide protests against the United States of America and President Bush. If we were living in Orwellian times as the opponents of the Patriot Act seem to believe, would "Fahrenheit 911" have been released during the 2004 Presidential Election?

In stark contrast to these loud times, is "Sophie Scholl the Final Days," a German movie nominated for Best Foreign Film. Sophie (Julia Jentsch) and Hans Scholl (Fabian Hinrichs) are college students who volunteer for the White Rose underground resistance. While spreading some anti Nazi propaganda at the University of Munich, the brother and sister are caught by the janitor. After many interrogations, The Scholl family goes on trial for treason against Adolph Hitler.

Spoken in German with English sub titles, "Sophie Scholle the Final Days" is a haunting movie. As Sophie, Julia Jentsch brings forth a Jennifer Jones "Song of Bernadette" quality to her performance. In stark contrast, the Judicial Nazis echo the Spanish Inquisition with their flowing red robes. Given that Sophie's final days were only 73 years ago, one is shocked that a death sentence resembles the brutality of the middle ages.

While the film is mostly shot indoors, the moments of sunlight bring forth a strong religious symbolism. “Sophie Scholl the Final Days” is one of the few films that examine the conscience of being a German Citizen under the dreadful days of the Dictator.