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Why Would Anyone Laugh at ‘Schindler’s List’? : Education Key to Seeing, Understanding the Film

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In response to the article “Did Cultures Clash Over ‘Schindler’s’?” (Calendar, Jan. 22), I found it appalling to read that about 20 kids in an Oakland movie theater laughed at a scene where a Nazi soldier shot a Jewish woman. It seems to me that these kids, like a lot of others, had no idea what the Holocaust was all about. I recall back in high school that our history classes did not spend much time on the Holocaust. In college, where I am now, you are not required to take specific courses for this period even if it is in your major. It is not required . . . and never has been. I am not saying that this period should govern more class time than any other, but concessions should be made somehow.

Marvin Levy, spokesman for Amblin Entertainment, the “Schindler’s List” producing company, said in the article that Amblin sent 30,000 guides about the film to high schools. That’s a fine idea--a measure to try to educate kids. If students never received any guides, and had no background on the subject, it should be the teacher’s responsibility to supplement them before taking them to view the film. Educating the students--especially about subject matter such as this--should have been the priority.

As one who works for a theater, I have had the unfortunate task of asking individuals to quiet down and not disturb the audience. In fact, my manager recently told me a story not unlike this one. About a month ago, an elderly woman came to our theater for her birthday to see a showing of “Schindler’s List.” About half of her family and relatives showed up to watch with her, leaving the other half of the prepaid tickets unused. The woman then went around the Beverly Connection mall giving them away free to anyone who cared to see the film.

Her hope was that those going in could learn something about a time in history many believe never occurred. Unfortunately, a few kids who went in with free tickets did not stop talking and jeering at the film. They could not have been oblivious to the violence and killing on the screen. But I assume that, like the students in Oakland, they were not prepared to comprehend what they were seeing.

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A three-hour-plus film in black and white about the Holocaust may not be everyone’s choice, but those who decide to view it must be prepared and understand. I find it hard to believe kids today are so desensitized to violence that when they see the strange convulsions of someone who’s been shot, their first instinct is to laugh. If one of their friends was gunned down on the way home, would they stand there and burst into laughter at the way he/she died?

Personally, it deeply hurt me to read this article. It seems that some kids today do not get the sufficient knowledge to understand the significance of the past. In the past couple of years, both local and national events have shown me how important it is to understand diversity.

My hope is that incidents such as the one in Oakland never happen again. Levy said that Steven Spielberg hoped that if more Holocaust study courses come out of this, a great deal will have been accomplished. I agree with Spielberg. My only other hope is that people begin to understand historically important events such as the Holocaust. Anyone who is not ready to see this film should not go. The emotional impact envelops most of the audience that attends with you. Uninformed people will only deprive themselves of a learning experience and deprive those in the theater around them.


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