Director: Christian Bauer
Topic: The inspiring story of a group of mostly Jewish young men who fled Nazi Germany, joined the U.S. Army, trained in psychological warfare at Maryland’s Camp Ritchie, and returned to Europe to battle Hitler’s troops as American soldiers. Whether providing essential intelligence to the U.S. or fighting on the beaches at Normandy, the “Ritchie boys” were an invaluable part of the nation’s war effort.
Financier: A mix of sources including broadcast companies from the director’s native Germany, Alliance Atlantis, History Television Canada, Discovery Wings (connected with the Discovery Channel) and the Bavarian Film Agency.
Shooting format: Digi Beta
Why it made the list: The poignant film is the first to laud this largely unrecognized group of soldiers and their heroic acts during WWII. Besides painting a compelling portrait of each young man, the film explores the meaning of home, as these soldiers learned to think of themselves as Americans while still holding on to their vibrant European backgrounds. Many knew each other from Germany and neighboring countries, making the camp “a little pocket of European culture in the middle of America,” as Bauer puts it. Now in their 80s, the men have careers in the arts, sciences, politics and academics.
Memorable scene: In his studio, filled with hundreds of canvases depicting the horrors of war, artist and former Ritchie boy Si Lewen looks back on his days as a soldier. “When fear takes over, color disappears. The sky, which a minute ago was blue, is suddenly white. Blood is not red, but black. Maybe that’s why much of my work, which deals with war, is mostly black and white.”
Distribution/broadcast status: Screened in five U.S. cities to meet Academy requirements, the film does not yet have a distributor.
On making the film: “They were grateful that they could come here — America saved their lives,” says Bauer. “And then, they had the chance to give back. They were not victims — they were victors.”