“The Lion of Judah” is 81-year-old Leo Zisman, who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau (despite a self-described habit of talking back to Nazis), and who leads a journey back to the camps that serves as the centerpiece of Matt Mindell’s microbudget film. Although well intentioned, “Lion” is a rare thing, a Holocaust movie for people unschooled in the Holocaust: Likeliest auds will be turned off by the inarticulate participants on Zisman’s Polish field trip, even though his fulminations about the Third Reich make it seem like the Holocaust happened yesterday.Rich in archival photos and grisly footage, the docu features young Americans who approach the subject, and talk about it, as if it hadn’t already been addressed by the greatest minds of the past 70 years. The upshot is a feeling of embarrassment for an educational system that so poorly teaches 20th-century history and a society that allows for the kind of self-absorption exhibited by Zisman’s fellow passengers. Ultimately, this is perhaps useful, since “never forget” only applies if you know something in the first place, and in that regard “The Lion of Judah” serves as a cautionary tale.
A JEC presentation. Produced by Matt Mindell, Joe Kavitski. Directed, written by Matt Mindell.
Camera (color/B&W), Joe Kavitski, Ben Donnellon; editor, Kavitski. Reviewed on DVD, Aug. 4, New York, 2012. Running time: 60 MIN.
Leo Zisman, Eric Gorenstein, Adrianna Celis, Matt Mindell, Agnes Furtak, Lawrence Hajioff.