‘Ninth November Night’ opens in Malibu

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Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein's "Ninth November Night" is a series of paintings of children's faces book-ended with pages from the Nazis' "Book of Races."

Documentary short about Holocaust paintings opens at New Malibu Theater Saturday, benefiting the Museum Of Tolerance.

The New Malibu Theater, beginning Saturday, will present the initial exhibition of German/American filmmaker Henning Lohner’s 23-minute documentary, “Ninth November Night,” which the Museum of Tolerance unveiled as a work-in-progress on Nov. 9 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of Kristallnacht.

Kristallnacht was the 1938 assault on Germany’s Jewish businesses and synagogues, which ushered in Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish problem,” the effort to eradicate European Jews.

The film is the product of Lohner and longtime Malibu resident, artist and artist representative Gisela Guttman, who jointly produced it to encourage remembrance of the atrocities of the Holocaust. Directed by Lohner and produced by him and Guttman, the film tells the story of famed Austrian painter Gottfried Helnwein, an Austrian non-Jew obsessed with a mission to use his art to preserve the memory of Holocaust persecutions. Max Carlson co-directed and edited the film, and Darren Rydstrom was director of photography.

Helnwein, whose work is exhibited in many international museums, is widely recognized for his image, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” depicting actor James Dean walking on a wet street, hands deep in overcoat pockets. But it has been his hard-hitting images of Jewish sufferings in the Holocaust and his art attacking Nazis and neo-Nazis that have made him a widely discussed and controversial figure in the European art world. The film deals in large part with his art installation, “Ninth November Night,” a heroic (more than 150 meters long and four meters high) series of paintings of children’s faces book-ended with pages from the Nazis’ “Book Of Races.” The work has been importantly exhibited in such art capitols as Berlin, the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg, Musee de L’Elysee in Lausanne and the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.

The art installation was desecrated during its first exhibition in Cologne and is now shown with the vandalizations (slitting the throats of some of the children depicted), visible as a reminder that the mindless hatreds continue, the producers said.

Helnwein and Lohner, who grew up in Austria and Germany respectively after World War II, and Guttman, who was a war child in Nazi Germany, undertook the documentary “to help reinforce the historic importance of events too awful ever to be forgotten, but which some people think are too awful to be remembered,” Guttman noted.

“We had great support from many Germans and Austrians, and the Austrian consul general here helped us financially,” Lohner said. “The resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe makes this a compelling time to show how the power of art can hold us to our conscience.”

Actors/filmmakers Maximilian Schell, Sean Penn and Jason Lee appear as “witnesses” in the film, with Schell reading the words of Simon Wiesenthal who has encouraged and praised Helnwein’s mission of remembrance.

“Ninth November Night” will be shown at 3:15 p.m. daily at the New Malibu Theatre beginning Saturday through Aug. 27, and the proceeds from attendance will go to support the Museum of Tolerance. Admission is $5.