Veracity of Award-Winning Israeli Documentary on Nazi Albert Speer QuestionedBreaking News
tags: Nazism, documentary film, Albert Speer
The man who provided the source material for an Ophir-award winning documentary about Nazi architect Albert Speer is challenging the film’s accuracy, claiming the filmmakers put words in his — and Speer’s — mouth.
Screenwriter Andrew Birkin, who tape-recorded over 40 hours of conversation with Speer while developing a film adaptation of Speer’s memoir “Inside the Third Reich” in 1971 and 1972, says Vanessa Lapa’s “Speer Goes to Hollywood,” which is structured around their meetings, invents dialogue and freely lifts Speer’s statements from other sources. The film purports to faithfully reproduce the contents of the tapes, only noting actors are recreating the audio well into the closing credits.
Birkin says he gave Lapa the digitized audio of his conversations in 2016, along with his screenplay for the unmade Speer biopic and archival photos. He had been involved in an earlier version of the film when documentarian Errol Morris was codirecting. Later, after Morris exited the film over creative differences, Birkin went to Israel to record interviews with Lapa.
Birkin says he refused to release the rights to his audio until he saw a cut of the film or at least learned what Lapa’s documentary was going to be about. In early 2020, after Birkin said he cut ties with Lapa, he said he learned from her production company’s lawyer that she had completed the film and was about to show it at the Berlinale. He first viewed the film on a laptop at a hotel in London.
“Talk about a jaw dropping to the floor,” Birkin said in a Zoom conversation. “There’s a couple of times I said ‘Stop! Stop! Pause the tape.’”
Birkin says much of what he was hearing had nothing to do with the conversations he had with Speer. Speer’s rant about having a “feeling of disgust” toward Jews was never said to him, Birkin insisted, and if it had been, he says he surely would have taken Speer to task for the remarks.
It wasn’t the only time Birkin, who documented time codes from the film, alleges Lapa had fabricated some of his exchanges with Speer. Some of the discrepancies, Birkin says, are minor, like Speer saying he “had to be witty, like Voltaire,” or the actor playing Speer referring to what was an outline of Birkin’s screenplay as a “script.” Others, Birkin says, paint him as someone easily manipulated by Speer or, worse, an accomplice to a cinematic whitewash of his crimes.
“Collectively it makes it sound like I was a collaborator,” Birkin said. “It’s not a documentary. It’s a pseudo-documentary.”
It is notable that of the many inaccuracies Birkin indicates, he does not deny one that makes him look quite bad — his use of the term “Jewish brigade” to refer to certain Jewish people at Paramount concerned with having more content about the Holocaust in the proposed film. Birkin said that at the time he did not think the phrase was pejorative — referring to the historical brigade in the British Army — and says that he regrets having used it now.
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