Connect with us


A Jewish producer of ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ sees his family history in the Oscar-nominated Netflix film



(JTA) — The film producer Daniel Dreifuss has only one surviving photo of a distant relative: his grandfather’s cousin, who fought for Germany in World War I and died in combat two days before the war’s end.

He has a few more photos of his grandfather, who also wore the German uniform in WWI — only to be rounded up by the Nazis two decades later during Kristallnacht and thrown into a concentration camp, as even the Jews who had fought for their country were not safe from its campaign of race extermination.

Dreifuss, who was raised in Brazil after his surviving ancestors fled the war to Uruguay, held up these weathered black-and-white photos to his Zoom camera as he spoke to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency from his home in Los Angeles. One shows his grandfather’s cousin in his military uniform, the other shows his grandparents posing together, between the wars. 

“Twenty years later, your country, that you just gave your health for and your cousin for and your family for, sends you to a camp,” he said. “It’s a lot of trauma to have to go through in one lifetime.”

These family stories echoed through Dreifuss’ mind when he first read the script for a proposed modern take on “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the classic 1928 novel about the German army’s hellish experiences during World War I. Nearly a century later, author Erich Maria Remarque’s descriptions of trench warfare and of the utter lack of heroism, valor or patriotism felt by its soldier protagonists resonated with Dreifuss.

“I said, ‘I know these people,’” he recalled. “Not because they are some distant relatives that I’ve heard of, but because I am the grandson of one of those kids who were in the film.”

Dreifuss’ parents met at a Jewish youth group in Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s. “My father was my mother’s madrich,” he recalled, using the Hebrew word for a youth group counselor. After they were later married, they moved to Israel partially to avoid Brazil’s military dictatorship and became left-wing political activists. They left Israel just before the Yom Kippur War and relocated to Scotland, where Dreifuss was born, before returning to Brazil to raise him.

Dreifuss had his bar mitzvah in the city of Belo Horizonte before later moving to Rio, which has a much larger Jewish community. “My family was never at all religious, but culturally Jewish,” he said, recalling Passover celebrations and gefilte fish recipes. He did not have many Jewish friends growing up, but his Brazilian friends were interested in Judaism and would attend his family’s Jewish events. 

Daniel Dreifuss, a producer of Netflix’s “All Quiet on the Western Front,” holds up a photo of his grandfather Max Dreifuss from 1919, recovering from his German military service in WWI. Max was sent to a concentration camp once the Nazis took power. (Courtesy of Daniel Dreifuss)

This global upbringing is reflected in Dreifuss’ interest in international film. It took a decade for him to mount his remake of “All Quiet,” which was eventually set up with a German production company and released by Netflix this past fall amid another endless military conflict in Europe. No one, he said, wanted to fund a resolutely anti-war film that refused to glorify its combatants, a film that was “never a hero’s journey, not the story of someone who came, you know, beat 1,000 people with their bare hands, triumphs and looks down on top of a hill at the end with some sweeping score.” 

But that journey has been validated by the film’s impressive Oscar total, which surprised industry observers. At the nomination ceremony last month, “All Quiet” received nine total nods, the second most of any film this year, including for best picture — which the novel’s original 1930 Hollywood adaptation, directed by Jewish filmmaker Lewis Milestone, won. (This year’s Academy Awards will be held March 12.)

Considering the Nazis had once led a campaign of book burning against the source material and terrorized German movie theaters that showed the original movie adaptation, accusing it of being a “Judenfilm,” Dreifuss sees the new film’s success as a historical victory, too. “I love that my name will be associated with a story that was deemed degenerate by that regime,” he said.

When he was first presented with an early draft of the new “All Quiet” script, in 2013, Dreifuss was coming off of the success of another international historical film he had produced. “No,” a 1980s-set Chilean political drama, starred Gael Garcia Bernal as an ad executive tasked with convincing his country to vote the dictator Augusto Pinochet out of office. The film netted Chile’s first-ever Oscar nomination for international feature film, although Dreifuss himself is not Chilean.

In researching “No,” Dreifuss said, the film’s team had trouble finding Chileans who would admit to having cast their real-life vote in Pinochet’s favor — even though 40% of the population did so. “We couldn’t find one single person who supported him,” he recalled. “At some point, years later, no one wanted to say,  ‘I supported it, I voted, I was on that side.’” He saw a parallel to the history of geopolitics in the run-up to WWII, when many Western countries — including his family’s adopted homeland of Brazil — were initially sympathetic to the Nazis. 

When Hollywood studios turned down the proposed remake of “All Quiet,” forcing Dreifuss to turn to European financing, he saw an opportunity to mount the first-ever German adaptation of the property, which would allow the film to open up a “historical perspective” on how the aftermath of WWI led to the rise of the Nazis and the Holocaust. 

German filmmaker Edward Berger, who also helmed several episodes of the espionage miniseries “Deutschland 83,” stepped into the director’s chair, and he also has a co-writing credit. German star Daniel Brühl, who has played many historical villains to the Jewish people in films ranging from “7 Days in Entebbe” to “The Zookeeper’s Wife,” took a key supporting role as the lead negotiator for the armistice agreements — the sole figure in the movie trying to find a peaceful resolution for his country. (The historical figure Brühl portrays, Matthias Erzberger, was vilified as a traitor by the German right and assassinated in 1921 by antisemitic nationalist radicals who were precursors to the Nazis.)

Though there are no explicitly Jewish characters in the film, Dreifuss believes it still speaks to the fate that would soon await Europe’s Jews.

“We know what followed in the decade in Germany,” he said. “So we could bring that to the film in subtle ways.”

He pointed to the armistice plotline that foreshadows how the Treaty of Versailles left Germany in a deeply disadvantaged position, creating an opportunity for Hitler’s brand of national populism. There are also scenes in which thoughtless German generals, driven by nationalistic fervor and wounded pride, send entire squadrons to their deaths mere minutes before the armistice is set to take effect. In one sequence, the film’s lead, the soldier Paul (Felix Kammerer), steals a goose from a French farming family of non-combatants and says: “It’s a hatred of the other, of not understanding, of being raised to have an enemy.”

Dreifuss is dipping into a different chapter of world Jewish history with his next project: a Showtime miniseries produced with the co-creators of the Israeli Netflix series “Fauda” that explores CIA operations in the Middle East and is partially set during the Lebanon War in which Israel had a heavy, and oft-criticized, military presence. The series will air this summer. 

He has also been pitched a host of WWI and WWII-related projects in the wake of the success of “All Quiet.” But, he joked, “I would love for people to not only think of me as the war guy, or as the dictator guy.”

The post A Jewish producer of ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ sees his family history in the Oscar-nominated Netflix film appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading

Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

Continue Reading


Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News