Banned in Germany, Mora's controversial 'Swastika' is remastered

A documentary film on Adolf Hitler’s home life that has been barely seen since its bow 37 years ago will be available to a new generation with theatrical distribution deals in Germany and the U.S.

Australian director Philippe Mora’s 1973 release “Swastika” featured previously unseen color footage from Hitler’s own homemovies shot on a 16mm camera by his mistress, Eva Braun. Mora’s pic ignited much debate and controversy at the time, and has barely been screened since.

Backed by producers Sandy Lieberson and David Puttnam, Mora chose to depict Hitler’s human face, running the footage without commentary. It was a controversial decision, as the images of him playing with children, relaxing with guests at home and eating lunch had never before been seen.

When it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1973, it caused outrage — and led to its being banned in Germany.

“It is the only film in the history of Cannes where people were fighting and screaming, throwing chairs at each other,” says Mora, who was at Poland’s Era New Horizons Film Festival in Wroclaw, which wrapped Aug. 1, for a retrospective of his films, which included a packed screening of “Swastika.”

Despite the hostile Cannes reception, the pic got distribution in France, Britain and the U.S.

It then virtually disappeared, with only occasional film club or university screenings for more than three decades.

Now the film has been remastered by Mora, Becker and the producers, with new dubbed-in conversations between Hitler and his house guests, deciphered by lip readers.

The pic was well-received by a new generation of festgoers at Germany’s Biberach Film Festival late last year, which led to theatrical distribution deals with Absolute Medien in Berlin and New York-based Kino Lorber, which plans an extensive university and college campus release across America.

Mora intends to explore more Nazi-era home movies. “I know there is still a lot of material out there that hasn’t been seen since it was shot; I’m on the case,” says Mora, who has lived in Los Angeles for the past 30 years. “I’m going to Germany to follow this up, and intend to create a television documentary with new material drawn from Third Reich homemovies. There are still a lot of unanswered questions from that time.”

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