"Sarah's Key" looks at Holocaust's lasting impact

Fri Jul 22, 2011 2:24pm EDT
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By Bob Tourtellotte

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Seven decades have passed since French police arrested thousands of Parisian Jews and sent them to death camps in an incident known as the Vel' d'Hiv roundup, but for some, the guilt still lingers.

French film "Sarah's Key," which opens in major U.S. cities on Friday after touching audiences in many European countries, looks at the notion of national remorse and its impact not only on the people who lived through it, but their families and offspring who, in many cases, never even knew it happened.

Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner is loathe to call "Sarah's Key" a Holocaust movie in the vein of Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," for instance, because his film is not so much about the event as its impact on a contemporary family. And while Vel' d'Hiv took place during World War II, genocide still happens in modern times in places such as Rwanda.

"Young people can relate to it because history is not represented as this abstract thing you have to learn in books," Paquet-Brenner told Reuters. "They understand that something which seemed so far from them could be right around the corner."

It's a scary thought, but one that "Sarah's Key" puts front-and-center for today's audiences.

The movie is adapted from the French novel "Elle s'appelait Sarah," which had an English-language version that became a New York Times bestseller.

It begins with the July, 1942 roundup at Vel' d'Hiv and focuses on one family, their 10-year-old daughter Sarah and her brother whom she locks in a closet to hide from the French police.

Sarah escapes from the camp where she is sent only to discover the horror of what the French, under Nazi rule, did to their own people and Sarah's family, in particular.   Continued...