Lewes Film Club - Amen

In mainland Europe, veteran film-maker Constantin Costa-Gavras’ political thriller Amen became an everyone’s-talking-about-it controversy before it was even released. The film, part-based on real-life testimonies, examines the Vatican’s refusal to acknowledge the Nazi death camps in which millions were exterminated. In order to publicise the film, its producers hired graphic designer Oliviero Toscani, the man responsible for those in-your-face Benetton ads in the 90’s. He came up with an image which inflamed a continent-wide debate, in which he merged a crucifix with a swastika.

The poster was banned in Toscani’s native Italy, for being too inflammatory. But it had already done its job, and the film was a box-office success which divided the Christian Right and the secular Left. It follows the path of two protagonists who are appalled when they learn of Hitler’s death machine. The first is Kurt Gerstein, a real character, a devout Christian Waffen SS Officer in charge of distributing Zyklon B, who decides he has to act when he realise what the chemical is being used for. The second is an invented character, Father Riccardo, a Vatican priest who tries to get the Pope to do something to stop the killing, and when he fails to do this, enters one of the camps himself, a yellow star sewn onto his shirt. It’s a powerful and moving film, which points a finger of accusation at the Vatican and forces the unanswerable question ‘what would I have done in such circumstances?’ DL

Oliviero Toscani, famous for his Benetton ads, designed the
controversial Amen poster

All Saints Centre, Lewes
When? 8pm
How Much? £4.50
(t) 01273 474610
(w) Website