Opening 13 Apr 2017
Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt is an American professor at Emery University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her specialty is Jewish history and the Holocaust. Several U.S. presidents appreciated her expertise and help with the new Holocaust Memorial in Washington D.C. Her book Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory was published in 1993. It names British journalist David Irving as a Holocaust denier who claims it to be a “myth by Jews.” He sued her and her publishing company Penguin Books for libel in September 1996. The case went to British court in January 2000 and lasted 32 days. Lipstadt’s next book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier came out in 2005, which is when director Mick Jackson knew he had to film the story, and we can see the worthwhile result.
In Great Britain the legal procedure is a bit different than in the U.S. Here there are two kinds of lawyers: solicitors and barristers. Also, in Great Britain one must prove one’s innocence; one is not innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, Lipstadt (played by Rachel Weisz) must prove that the Holocaust existed. She hired Richard Rampton (Wilkinson) to represent her. Throughout the case he never makes eye contact with Irving (Spall), who forgoes legal help and represents himself. Rampton does not allow Lipstadt or any of the interested Holocaust survivors to testify. He reasoned that just one wrong word from an inexperienced witness could kill the whole case. Instead, he relies on five international historians as witnesses.
Scriptwriter David Hare was “fascinated with the chance to defend a historic truth.” He wrote his court dialogue directly from official files of the case, as well as from the 333-page report by the judge, Sir Charles Gray (Alex Jennings). The film is only from the perspective of Lipstadt, with many discussions between her and her lawyer such as, “It’s okay to listen to your conscience, but what feels best isn’t necessarily what works best.” Or “Irving might believe what he is saying. You can’t say someone is lying if he really believes it.” Director Jackson films on original sites such as the London High Court and Auschwitz. Denial is an absorbing film with excellent British actors, especially for viewers interested in legal reasoning and history. (Becky Tan)