Saturday, May 2, 2009


So what is this one about?
You know, I was going to use wikipedia's description of this film, because I was sure Netflix would not say that the film took place in Belarus...BUT IT DID! So yay Netflix, they say
Daniel Craig stars as Tuvia Bielski, one of four Jewish brothers who escape from Poland into the forests of Belarus during World War II to lead a band of resistance fighters and create a safe haven for Jewish refugees. The real-life sanctuary established by the Bielski brothers saved more than 1,000 Jews from persecution and death. Edward Zwick directs this moving historical drama that also stars Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell and George MacKay.
And how much did I pay to watch?
I have my movie ticket from, wait for it, February 6, 2009 from the good ol' Georgetown AMC and it tells me that I paid $10.75. Now I can throw this receipt away...since I only hung onto it because I knew I could refer back to it on this hurr bloggy.

And what did I think?
Now, Ima tell yous a secret. The first time I saw this preview I knew, I MEAN KNEW, it took place in Belarus. Now, how would I know that? Well, maybe two reasons. 1) I wrote my masters thesis on of course I am an expert. But, the real reason is 2) I once saw this movie, Idi i Smotri (Come and See) in this class I took in grad school called "Comparitive Totalitarian Culture" that is about how poor Belarus was absolutely slaughtered by the Nazis. And the color in the film was SO reminiscent of what I was seeing in the trailer for Defiance. (Have I written about Idi i Smotri before? I feel like I have...) Well anyway, when I saw this I thought, "If this isn't about Belarusian Partisans I will eat my hat!" but, it was. So there, my hat is safe.

Back in the day when I was working at the 'bux, I had this customer who always talked about movies with me. She said I absolutely had to see Defiance because she thought it was so amazing (she hadn't seen Gran Torino yet, but after she had she wanted to go see it again the next day). I disagree with that, and in all honesty I didn't think it was that amazing. I mean, it was ok, but perhaps because I knew the story of Belarusian Partisans I wasn't as taken because it wasn't as surprising. In fact, sitting here three months later I can't remember much I found very extraordinary about Defiance. I did like the girl who got preggers, and Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) getting a forest wife. And the music was pretty good, but I didn't find the film especially moving or affecting or amazing.

On the wikipedia entry on Defiance they point out something that I missed in the film, but adds so much excellence and authenticity and is something that I would have given the filmmakers so much credit for that I am embarassed I missed it. Well, apparently it was on the entry when I first read it in February, but now it is gone. So, on imdb they talk about it a little... they say,

The Bielskis' native language is Yiddish, which is influenced by German, Russian and Hebrew. While growing up, the Bielskis learned Belarussian from their neighbors and also experienced various occupations by Russians, Poles and Germans. To varying degrees, they picked up other languages out of necessity. Tuvia also learned German during World War I when the Germans occupied their land.

So, what was the point of that? The old wikipedia entry explained that the English that the Bielskis spoke was supposed to be Yiddish and all the other languages would have had to have been subtitled for that. (Did you know you can go back and see edits on Wikipedia? Well you is what I wanted to show you originally...
The movie was filmed primarily in accented English to represent speech by the Jewish characters that would have been in the Yiddish language.Whenever the dialogue was not in English, for instance when a Jewish character was speaking to a non-Jewish character or when a non-Jewish character was speaking, the dialogue was in the Russian language. The only exception to this were German soldiers who spoke in German. Some Polish reviewers have criticized this decision, arguing that many of the locals in the area would have spoken Polish and not Russian or Belorussian and that the Bielski partisans did not know Russian or Belarussian as well as or Polish. The actors' accents in English have also fallen under criticism because they were not distinctively Yiddish but instead varied and seemed to represent a general Eastern European accent.
Well, that long explaination was barely worth it. Harrumph. But it does illustrate my unecessary and undying love for authentic languages being spoken in movies. This is way going off track, but one movie that the use of language drives me nuts in was Enemy at the Gates. All the Russians were played by Brits with English accents and the Germans were played by Americans with American accents, but for some unexplicable reason when there were announcements over speakers they were in Russian, or when a newspaper was printed it was in cyrillic. Why?? WHY!?
So what is the rating? (out of 10)
So, on netflix I gave Defiance 4 out of 5. I would have given it a 3 but I said the extra star was because it was about Belarus, and Belarusian partisans. So, I'll give it an 8 here, because Belarus gets no love, and maybe it will introduce a wider audience to Belarus during World War II.

One other thing, though, is that not everyone thought the Bielskis were freedom fighters. If you're interested, you can see that history always has two sides. Just like Sarah yelled at Areta for her paper on the UPA, some people think the Bielski brothers were "Jewish-communist bandits" not great freedom fighters and heroes.

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