Oscar winner Steve McQueen says he believes that, while the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East has seen a rise in antisemitism across Europe and the US, he believes it has always been there, but that “people have been deaf to it.”
McQueen, whose 2014 movie 12 Years a Slave brought him an Academy Award for Best Picture as well as an Oscar nomination for direction, has made an epic documentary film based on his wife Bianca Stitger’s book about the Nazi occupation of the couple’s home town of Amsterdam, Atlas of an Occupied City: 1940-1945.
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The documentary film, which is cinemas from February 9th, runs to four hours and 23 minutes in total, including a break, and McQueen told The Times of London the extraordinary length was necessary to contain all the stories he wanted to tell – including the fates of the occupants of 130 private homes, plus other buildings and spaces around the city, during the occupation. These includes tales of persecution and murder from a time when 60,000 of the city’s Jews were deported and murdered in death camps.
McQueen says that Occupied City is about learning from these past events, that the film is a reminder of “how things can develop.”
The director has formatted the film so that text telling the story of yesteryear is interlaid with contemporary footage, while actress Melanie Hyams narrates.
The director told The Times, “This could not have been an hour and a half. The interesting thing now is actually no one is talking about length.”
Between 2019 and 2022, McQueen shot 36 hours of footage in total, and he previously said that a 36-hour version of his documentary exists.
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