“What Our Fathers Did” contains perhaps the ultimate divide between its subjects. Philippe Sands is the children of European Jews who saw his family devastated by the Holocaust. Niklas Frank and Horst von Wächter are the children of high-ranking Nazi Party officials. Truly, this is the kind of matchup that seemingly only a screenwriter could dream up.
But the three men are cordial – friendly, even! That is, until Sands decides to press the two men on how they can disavow the ideology and methodology of their fathers’ party while also justifying their actions. They can still love their parents because the now-grown men delude themselves into believing that their fathers were far removed from any kind of genocide or terror.
Sands tests just how far familial allegiance will go, even presenting them with incontrovertible evidence that their ancestors gave orders for mass exterminations. Still, they remain unmoved and unconvinced. It feels like an exercise in futility, however noble a task it might be.
Director David Evans could have matched Sands’ forceful case with hard-hitting technique, extensive historical contextualization or critical commentary from unexpected experts. Instead, “What Our Fathers Did” plays like a bloated television magazine profile. It feels glossy when it should be penetrative, cursory where it should be weighty. Seriously, did anyone involved in this movie even look at the Wikipedia page for “banality of evil?” Our world is witnessing what appears to be the rebirth of fascism. We deserve a better look at its first incarnation than this. C+ /