Monday, September 10, 2007

The Rape of Europa Opens in NYC on September 14th

The Rape of Europa Opens in NYC on September 14th


The Rape of Europa.

NEW YORK.-Menemsha Films will open The Rape of Europa, the acclaimed documentary film about Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring and the Nazi’s large-scale theft of European art, and the Allies effort to preserve and return it. Joan Allen narrates this breathtaking chronicle about the battle over the very survival of centuries of western culture. The Rape of Europa, written, produced and directed by Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen and Nicole Newnham, and co-produced by Robert M. Edsel, author of the companion book Rescuing Da Vinci, is based on Lynn H. Nicholas's landmark book, and will open at the Paris & Angelika theaters in NYC on September 14th.

In a journey through seven countries, The Rape of Europa takes the audience into the violent whirlwind of fanaticism, greed, and warfare that threatened to wipe out the artistic heritage of Europe. For twelve long years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history. But young art professionals as well as ordinary heroes, from truck drivers to department store clerks, fought back with an extraordinary effort to safeguard, rescue and return the millions of lost, hidden and stolen treasures.

The Rape of Europa begins and ends with the story of artist Gustav Klimt’s famed Gold Portrait, stolen from Viennese Jews in 1938 and now the most expensive painting ever sold. Today, more than sixty years later, the legacy of this tragic history continues to play out as families of looted collectors recover major works of art, conservators repair battle damage, and nations fight over the fate of ill-gotten spoils of war. According to U.S. estimates, the Nazis stole one-fifth of all the known artworks in Europe. While the Allies returned most of the displaced art in the decade following the war, much of the loot is still missing. Tragically, unique masterpieces were destroyed and lost to posterity forever. Other works of art—the last, forgotten victims of the war—survived but remain unidentified, traceable only with costly and difficult investigation.

In contrast to the wholesale looting of Hitler and the Nazis, the western Allies worked to mitigate the tragic, inevitable toll exacted on art and historic cities during their invasion of Italy, France and Germany. Central to this history is the unprecedented mission of the Monuments Men, mostly American art historians and museum curators who, drafted into military service, mounted a miraculous effort to protect monuments and recover millions of pieces of displaced art.

The Rape of Europa offers a privileged entry into the exclusive circles of the contemporary art trade and explores the little-known legacy of World War II that lured many post-war collectors and dealers into a Faustian bargain that continues to present day. The film is an emotional witness to the destruction wrought on culture and art by fanaticism, greed, and warfare. But it is also a hopeful film that demonstrates how it is possible for humanity to protect the integrity of cultural property in armed conflicts.


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