Friday 28 April 2017

WATCH: WW2 documentary with Steven Spielberg is your new Netflix obsession

Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix
Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix
Steven Spielberg in Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix
Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

This one will keep you occupied for a while.

Gripping documentary Five Came Back looks at Hollywood's impact on World War Two and how propaganda through cinema pushed the fight against Nazism.

The three-part series is about the five greatest filmmakers of the forties - Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler (Ben Hur) - and looks at what happened when the US Armed Forces issued them with cameras during WW2.

Featuring narration from Meryl Streep, the documentaries features interviews with some of the best directors of our generation, including Steven Spielberg, The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro (The Hobbit), Paul Greengrass (Jason Bourne) and Lawrence Kasdan (Star Wars).

They explain how Hollywood responded to the threat of Nazism and Hitler through the silver screen and brought the war home to millions of cinema goers.

"Early on, Hollywood realised that it had a tremendous tool or weapon for change, through cinema,” Spielberg says in the documentary.

"Cinema in its purest form could be put in the service of propaganda. Hitler and his minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels understood the power of the cinema to move large populations toward your way of thinking," Coppola adds.

Steven Spielberg in Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix
Steven Spielberg in Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix

The documentary explains why propaganda was a necessary tool in Hollywood to counter the threat of the encroaching Nazi point of view that was sweeping the world. It also brings to light the harrowing, real-life ordeals the directors faced while shooting the most famous battles in history.

There's so much front-line footage for viewers to dive into. Director Laurent Bouzereau and his team poured over 100 hours of archival and newsreel footage; watched over 40 documentaries and training films from the directors; studied 50 studio films and over 30 hours of outtakes and raw footage from their war movies.

Says Bouzereau, “These filmmakers, at that time, had a responsibility in that what they were putting into the world would be taken as truth. You can see a lot of echoes in what is happening today.

"It became clear as we were doing this series that the past was re-emerging in some ways, including the line we see that separates cinema that exists for entertainment and cinema that carries a message. And politics is more than ever a part of entertainment. I find it courageous of filmmakers then, as with artists today, to speak up for those who don’t have a platform

Journalist Mark Harris, who wrote the book the documentary is based on, explains the difference between audiences of today and the audiences of the 1940s and how cinema was the most important medium in conveying the reality of war to the masses.

Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix
Five Came Back. Credit: Netflix

“It’s the hardest thing to convey to young, contemporary audiences – even if you understand it intellectually, you don’t understand viscerally that you had to wait a really, really long time for news."

“We’re in a context now where we have five different ways of knowing what is making news this morning. But you’re truly in another universe when you’re talking about the 1940s. There were newspapers and radio, but visually, the movies were the only way people could see the war.”

In conjunction with the launch of Five Came Back, Netflix will also present 13 documentaries discussed in the series: Ford’s 1942 short documentary The Battle of Midway, Wyler’s The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress from 1944, Huston’s 1943 documentary Report from the Aleutians, Capra’s Oscar-nominated film The Battle of Russia, Stevens’ 1945 documentary  Nazi Concentration Camps and Stuart Heisler’s The Negro Soldier.

Five Came Back lands on the Netflix on March 31.

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