UPDATED with video: The Auschwitz Report, Slovakia’s contender for the International Feature Oscar, tells the true story of two Slovakian Jews who escape Auschwitz in a bid to tell the world about the Nazi atrocities taking place in the concentration camp.
Based on the book Escape From Hell by one of the runaways, Alfréd Wetzler, the film has been realized in uncompromising detail by director Peter Bebjak. It pictures the brutal reality of everyday life in the early days of Auschwitz, the sacrifices made to alert allies to the horrors, and the crushing realization that the world was not quite ready to hear about what was taking place behind the barbed wire.
Bebjak tells Deadline during the film’s Contenders International panel that he wanted to tell Wetzler and Rudolf Vrba’s story to remind the world that past mistakes should not be repeated at a time when populism is on the march. “There are still groups of people in Europe who still think it’s 1939 and they are pushing their radical agendas forward,” he says, via translation from Auschwitz Report’s leading man Noel Czuczor. “We tend to forget these terrible things too easily.”
Czuczor, who plays Wetzler, said he lost nearly 40 pounds for the role and that filming conditions were intense as Bebjak sought authenticity. “It was a hard shoot for all of us. It was freezing cold, we tried to be as believable as possible,” he says.
The film, which is repped by Samuel Goldwyn Films in the U.S., features an important cameo from John Hannah towards its conclusion. As the camera sweeps towards Hannah’s character Warren, the reality of Wetzler and Vrba’s hell dawns on him.
Check out the panel video above.