Raising the Ashes

Thesp Michael O'Keefe debuts as a helmer with "Raising the Ashes." Documenting a five-day interfaith retreat at Auschwitz, pic applies little fresh insight or artistry to subject's exploration. It does, however, add a queasily self-congratulatory, New Age agenda that will further limit exposure to educational or other venues. Organized by U.S.-based Zen master Roshie Bernie Glassman, the event gathered together 150 people of various religious affiliations --- Buddhist as well as Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Their intent was a "healing" of poisonous geographical history and space. A few attendees were descended from camp survivors or onetime Nazis; others are simply empathetic. Pic's midsection leans heavily on talking-head interviews with participants.

While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior occupants’ experience.

The most questionable sequence juggles a hyperbolic montage of burning corpses against O’Keefe’s very actorish reading of a poem by a camp survivor. While such sequences may be well intended, their effect hews dangerously close to self-serving trivialization. (Soundtrack use of rock songs by Neil Young and Patti Smith also strikes a less-than-dignified chord in this thematic context.)

Shot on vid, then transferred to 16mm, tech package is routine at best. The “very good energy” newly bestowed upon Auschwitz herein grows more back-pattingly discomfiting as the short feature progresses. “Raising the Ashes” might as well be about an est seminar, for all its unblinking focus on “personal growth.”

Raising the Ashes

Production: A Zen Peacemaker Organization/Michael O'Keefe production. Produced by Brett Weinstock. Executive producer, Weinstock. Directed by Michael O'Keefe.

Crew: Camera (video-to-16mm, color/B&W), Michael Barnard; editor, Eric Jenkins; sound, Walker Barnard; original music, Gary Remal Malkin. Reviewed at Roxie Cinema, San Francisco, Sept. 25, 1997. (In Mill Valley, AFI/L.A. film festivals.) Running time: 72 MIN.

More Film

  • Damascus Cover review

    Film Review: 'Damascus Cover'

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

  • No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No

    Shinobu Hashimoto, Scriptwriter for Akira Kurosawa, Dies at 100

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

  • 'Path of Blood' Review: The Mask

    Film Review: 'Path of Blood'

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

  • Supernatural Romance 'Hush, Hush' Movie Taps

    Film News Roundup: Supernatural Romance Movie 'Hush, Hush' Taps Kellie Cyrus as Director

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

  • Richard Madden

    'Game of Thrones' Actor Richard Madden to Play Elton John's Manager in 'Rocketman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

  • Graphic Novel 'Under,' About Sewer Mutants,

    Graphic Novel 'Under,' About Sewer-Dwelling Mutants, Being Adapted Into Movie (EXCLUSIVE)

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

  • Daniel KaluuyaThe Metropolitan Museum of Art's

    Daniel Kaluuya to Star in Romantic Drama 'Queen and Slim' From Lena Waithe

    While this kind of personal coming-to-terms is admirable from a distance, the solemn public gravity lent it by O’Keefe’s camera (and frequent on-camera presence) inevitably creates a certain fatuous, navel-gazing tenor — especially when atrocity footage is intercut with shots of the privileged visitors, who fade in from B&W to color as if “reliving” prior […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content