Director and Producer: Edward Zwick
Released in 2008, Defiance is a World-War era 2 drama, based on a true story, about four brothers who led a group of Jewish partisans, hiding from the Nazi occupiers of Belarus.
While there was some artistic license taken, in some of the action scenes, the movie is a believable story of a group of Jews who fought, not only the Nazis, but also racism among the Belorussian population.
Starting with the brothers meeting up shortly after the murder of their parents by the Nazis, the brothers hide out in the woods. Shortly thereafter they are joined by other small groups of Jews, ultimately growing to around 1,200 people, by the end of the war. Today the descendants of the Bielsky partisans number close to 20,000!
These are not stereotypical heroes, but all struggle with very human issues of guilt, anger, love, and justice. The film also deals with the peculiar issues the Jewish community faced; whether to fight back, or trust God and/or government. There is tension between the brothers, over whether to fight, or save more people, resulting in a split with Zus, and a few others, joining a local band of Russian partisans.
I found the movie deals with the issues on a realistic level, and while there is enough action to satisfy action junkies, there is a deeper level that makes you think about the issues.
In one scene, during a funeral, the presiding rabbi prays; “Oh Lord, please choose another people…” For me this is probably the most prophetically interesting part of the movie. For years I had wondered how it could be possible for the Jews to accept a gentile messiah, and I think this sentiment provides an answer. I don’t know if they will, but it is food for thought.
Filmed a few miles away from the original setting, over the border in Lithuania, the scenery and architecture provide a setting that gives the feeling of authenticity.
If I were to rate this movie I would give it 5 stars out of 5, or two thumbs up! For anyone who wonders what it was like for people living through such horrific conditions, or for history buffs, this is a valuable movie. It is rated 14A because of violence and coarse language. Small children will find it disturbing.
Due to the dramatically increasing amount of anti-Semitism in our world today, I think this movie should provide a counterbalance to some of the rampant racism we see around us! While there were many Jews who were victims of the Nazis, there were some who stood their ground, and I say: Good for them!