Lucy Popescu

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Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Weisz’

Film review – Denial

Posted by lucypopescu on January 29, 2017

denialMick Jackson’s court room drama, Denial, focuses on the 1996 British libel suit brought by David Irving (Timothy Spall), the infamous Holocaust denier, against American historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her publisher Penguin Books. Based on Lipstadt’s book, Denial: Holocaust History on Trial, and adapted for screen by David Hare, Denial offers some fascinating insights into Irving’s twisted logic and the intricacies of British law.

When Irving claims that Lipstadt’s book had attempted to destroy his reputation as a historian, Lipstadt is shocked to discover that the burden of proof is on the defendant. She is forced to come to London to argue her case with the help of British solicitor Anthony Julius (Andrew Scott), a rising star after having represented Diana in her divorce from Prince Charles. Irving’s claims are outrageous – that the gas chambers at Auschwitz were not used to kill Jews (according to Irving they were built to kill lice) and that Hitler had in fact opposed the murder of European Jewry. Because there is no photographic evidence of the actual genocide, these claims have to be tested in a court of law. More worryingly, Lipstadt’s representatives have to prove that Irving intentionally lied about the Holocaust and isn’t just effectively in denial.

Lipstadt has a formidable team working for her, including leading libel barrister Richard Rampton (Tom Wilkinson), while Irving chooses to represent himself in the hope of gaining public sympathy for what he refers to as a “David vs. Goliath” conflict. Even if one doesn’t already know the outcome of this renowned legal case, it’s pretty obvious who is going to triumph from the outset and this drains a degree of tension from the judge’s deliberations. Wisely, Hare’s screenplay focuses on Lipstadt’s conflicts with her legal team’s strategies and their refusal to allow her or any Holocaust survivors to take the stand. They argue that Irving, rather than the Holocaust, should be on trial. Lipstadt believes that survivors should not be denied a voice.

Apart from shots of Lipstadt’s seminars with her students, her morning runs, meetings with lawyers and a poignant visit to the remains of Auschwitz with Rampton, Denial is set largely in and around the court room. There are some excellent performances – in particular from Spall as the slippery and odious denier and Wilkinson as the wine-loving barrister who proves disconcertingly sharp-witted. Given the alarming rise of far right xenophobia, a film that portrays this memorable defence against fascism and the rewriting of history, feels exceptionally timely. There are more than a few parallels to be drawn between the swagger and deviousness of Irving and another well known falsifier, President Trump.

Originally published by



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Film Review – The Whistleblower

Posted by lucypopescu on February 2, 2012

Canadian filmmaker Laraysa Kondracki’s extraordinary debut feature, The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave, focuses on sex trafficking in post-war Bosnia. Co-scripted by Kondracki and Eilis Kirwan, the film also exposes some of the wider issues associated with war – in particular,  how violence and brutality often persist though the uneasy transition into peace.

Based on a true story, Kathryn Bolkovac (Weisz) is a Nebraskan police officer who is offered a lucrative job as a peacekeeper with the United Nations. Unlike other countries participating in the international peacekeeping mission, the US government outsources contracts to private firms who hire staff on its behalf (an issue that continues to cause controversy in both Iraq and Afghanistan).

Kathy is good at her job and is swiftly transferred to the UN’s Gender Office, which deals with investigations into sexual assault and sex trafficking. Inevitably, post-conflict, it is women and children who are the most vulnerable and Kathy is horrified at the extent of the immoral trade in human beings. She discovers a local bar where young, traumatised women, who have been sold into prostitution, are forcibly held in appalling conditions. When she discovers that UN workers and members of the international police force are engaged in the trade and abuse of these women she begins to gather evidence of their complicity.

Kondracki gives a human face to her political thriller by interweaving the story of two Ukrainian girls who have been sold into prostitution with Kathy’s own emotional journey. After being rescued from the bar, Kathy promises to help them but the criminal gangs’ network is deeply entrenched and her intervention has tragic consequences.

Kathy finds herself increasingly alienated by her male colleagues. After relaying her concerns to her superiors she discovers that many of the peacekeepers are protected by diplomatic immunity. Her bosses prefer to turn a blind eye to atrocities so as not to threaten the rebuilding project. Kathy is labelled a troublemaker and her job is abruptly terminated. In order to clear her name, she blows the whistle on the UN and US State Department’s cover-up.

Weisz is excellent as the principled police officer who risks her own life in taking on the powers that be and there is strong support from Redgrave as her sympathetic boss and David Strathairn as the senior diplomat who helps Kathy.

The Whistleblower is a bold debut from Kondracki. It sheds light on the horrors of sex slavery that continues to this day without feeling preachy or over-worthy. Filmed largely on location in Romania, an evocative setting and a country that has its own share of problems regarding trafficked women, this is an intense, gripping thriller that marks out Kondracki as a talent to watch.

Originally published by Cine-Vue

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