Occupied City ★★★★ — Jewish Renaissance

As the lockdown restrictions ease, more political protests are documented. A left-wing anti-fascist rally; a commemoration of the Netherland’s role in slavery; a pro-Palestine demo. These events intermingle with footage of people going about their daily lives. Families skating on the frozen canals. Teenagers getting stoned in the park. A couple making out under a tree. All the while, the narrator continues her relentless drumbeat, detailing the murders, arrests, transportations, suicides and countless acts of human cruelty that took place during the occupation. Occasionally her voice is almost inaudible over the sounds of the world, of people talking, of music playing. Eventually you start to tune her out. Again, perhaps that’s the point.

The film isn’t entirely abstract. Inside Amsterdam’s National Holocaust Memorial, the camera slides over the tens of thousands of names listed. A set of brass Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) are hammered into the pavement outside a house, inscribed with the names of the Jews who once lived there. The film ends with footage of a bar mitzvah – the final shot is of a group of Jewish children charging joyfully through the doors of a synagogue – and as the credits roll, the first thing that comes to mind are the words of IRA member and hunger-striker Bobby Sands: “Our revenge will be the laughter of our children.”

Occupied City is no easy viewing, but there’s no denying that it’s a work of art worth witnessing.

By Barney Pell Scholes

Occupied City is out now in select UK cinemas.

Read our interview with Bianca Stigter about her documentary Three Minutes: A Lengthening in the Winter 2023 issue of JR.

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