In and around one village in Nazi-occupied France, 5,000 Jews were taken in and sheltered--by 5,000 Christians! "Weapons of the Spirit" is the story of a unique conspiracy of goodness, a story filmmaker Pierre Sauvage was born to tell: he was born and protected at that time in that singular oasis of peace--Le Chambon.
Le Chambon-sur-Lignon was a tiny Protestant farming village in the mountains of south-central France. Defying the Nazis and the French government that was collaborating with the Nazis, the villagers of the area of Le Chambon provided a safe haven throughout the war for whoever knocked on their door.
Most of the villagers were proud descendants of the Huguenots, the first Protestants in Catholic France. They remembered their own history of persecution, and it mattered to them. They also read the Bible, and tried to heed the admonition to love your neighbor as yourself.
"The responsibility of Christians," their pastor, André Trocmé, had reminded them the day after France surrendered to Nazi Germany, "is to resist the violence that will be brought to bear on their consciences through the weapons of the spirit."
There were many other uncelebrated individual and collective acts of goodwill and righteousness throughout the dark war years. But nowhere else did a persistent and successful moral consensus develop on a scale approaching what happened in the area of Le Chambon.
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As the Nazi war machine marched across Europe and Jews were rounded up and killed, a small town in France became an unlikely haven for the persecuted. The small village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, which was inhabited mostly by Huguenots (devout Protestants whose own history involved being persecuted), became a place where families took in Jews and hid them in their houses and on their farms. The villagers risked their lives, and their bravery is evident in interviews with residents who recall the Nazis searching house to house for Jews in hiding. Produced by Pierre Sauvage, who was born in the village while his parents were being sheltered, this documentary is a moving look at ordinary people who performed extraordinary feats. What is perhaps most impressive is how the elderly villagers interviewed on camera seem to think what they did wasn't very heroic at all, but rather a simple expression of their religious faith. It is humbling to hear them describe how it was impossible for them to do anything other than protect their fellow humans from great evil. This edition of the documentary is introduced by Bill Moyers, and also features an interview Moyers conducted with filmmaker Sauvage. --Robert J. McNamaraReview:
"A fascinating chapter of history intersecting an unsurpassingly personal saga." -- Todd McCarthy, Variety
"A film-making triumph." -- David Bianculli, New York Post
"A personal and modest masterpiece that can be compared to the best achievements of the monumental Shoah and The Sorrow and the Pity." -- André Pierre Colombat, The Holocaust in French Film, Scarecrow Press, 1993
"An inquiry into the nature of goodness and a personal odyssey. Moving and provocative. Enormously uplifting. What an extraordinary story." -- David Ansen, Newsweek
"As moving--and tough-minded--a film about efforts to save the Jews of Europe as has been made." -- Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal
"Astonishing. Olympian. Emotionally wrenching. Bulging with profound questions of morality, responsibility and religion." -- Desmond Ryan, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Both the best Christmas special and the best Hanukah special likely to be seen [in 1990]. An absolutely extraordinary story about matter-of-fact heroes. In a hundred years, it is likely to be timely still." -- Tom Shales, Washington Post
"Both the best Christmas special and the best Hanukah special likely to be seen, in 1990. An absolutely extraordinary story about matter-of-fact heroes. In a hundred years, it is likely to be timely still." -- Tom Shales, Washington Post
"Flawless. The best kind of filmmaking, both intensely personal and of universal interest." -- Tom Jacobs, Los Angeles Daily News
"If you wish to learn what more men and women could have done to save Jews, watch Pierre Sauvage's poignant documentary. It is superb!" -- Elie Wiesel, witness, author, Nobel Peace Prize laureate
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