The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Features  |  Reviews
Find a Movie
Movie List
Loading ...
Find Theaters and Movie Times
Search Movies

Interview: Ed Zwick

Into the woods
By SHAULA CLARK  |  January 19, 2009

Ed Zwick

On January 16, director Ed Zwick's Defiance storms theaters with its harrowing tale of the freedom-fighting Bielski brothers, who retreat to the forests of Belarus to protect an ever-growing brigade of Jewish refugees and wage relentless guerilla war against the Nazis. At last month's sneak-peek screening of Defiance at the Brattle (an event organized by Zwick and his alma mater, Harvard), the Oscar-winning director had this to say of Hollywood: "We are in the hero business; we usually invent them." But as fantastic as his latest film's story may be, his inspiration was plucked straight from the headlines — specifically, the New York Times' 1995 obituary of Zus Bielski, whose remarkable life illuminated an aspect of the Holocaust often overlooked in cinema: the Jews who fought back. Last month, I sat down with Zwick to talk about his new film.

I really appreciate being able to screen the movie at the Brattle. So that was an event you put together?
Well, I still have a lot of friendships among the faculty at Harvard, and my son is a graduating senior, and he had some friends there, so I thought this would be a nice excuse. Not to mention that the Brattle Theatre was a very important place to me when I was learning about movies.

Did you go there a lot as an undergrad?
Yeah, absolutely.

Does any Brattle programming particularly stick out in your mind?
Well, I probably first saw Casablanca there — I think everyone probably has seen Casablanca there — and Seven Samurai and Bergman movies. There were a lot of great films. They had the Janus catalog there, so there were a lot of films to be seen.

Do you like to premiere your work in Cambridge when you can?

Well, I remember reading you had premiered — at least premiered in Boston —The Last Samurai.
I think I brought it here. Yeah, I brought it to a class here. There was a professor here doing a class on samurai. Listen, it's a place that's been important to me intellectually and in terms of rich relationships, so it's great to come.

What was it like to film in Lithuania?
We were in Vilnius. And it's an unhappy place, I would say. It's a place that was traumatized before the war, by what they did in the war, and what was done to them after the war by the Soviets. Out of a population of 2.5 million, 300,000 were killed right away, and then 500,000 more over the course of 10 years, taken to the Gulag. And then once independence came, 500,000 more left to go to the EU, so it's a place that's not yet fully recovered. It's beginning to recover economically, but spiritually, I think it has a ways to go.

Do you think that what the Bielski brothers aided by geography?
Of course. How could it have happened in urban situations? They tried, as with the sewersof the Warsaw ghetto. But it was well nigh impossible. It's in fact often in rural settings that rebellion has found its greater ease. Think of Vietnam. Things like the Intifada or the Sunni resistance now is not — those people are not being faced with extermination. They're rebelling an occupier, but they're not being targeted with death. So there's a very important distinction to be made.

1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |   next >
Related: Review: Defiance, Review: Four Seasons Lodge, Review: The Saboteur, More more >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Movies, Harvard University,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
HTML Prohibited
Add Comment

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   DEAR JOHN  |  February 02, 2010
    "We're sitting here . . . and we're talking, but nobody's actually saying anything."
  •   REVIEW: SUNDANCE SHORTS 2009  |  January 13, 2010
    Welcome to the world of "Sundance Shorts 2009," where the happy endings tend to look more like reprieves from misery.
  •   REVIEW: IN SEARCH OF BEETHOVEN  |  January 06, 2010
    Phil Grabsky's exhaustive documentary doesn't exactly dispel any stereotypes about Beethoven's being a shaggy genius prone to rages.
  •   52 WAYS TO LEAVE 2009  |  December 30, 2009
    Your usual lackadaisical approach to New Year's Eve — just see what happens and go with the flow — is not going to cut it this year. Sure, the end of this decade may not have the same kind of new-millennium pressure riding on it as the last one, but the plunge into 2010 is a milestone nonetheless.
  •   REVIEW: BROTHERS  |  December 09, 2009
    Operation Enduring Freedom seems to have replaced Vietnam as Hollywood's go-to military quagmire from which to dredge gut-wrenching meditations on the psychological carnage of war.

 See all articles by: SHAULA CLARK

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2010 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group