CONCEIVED AND DIRECTED BY
First Run Features
Photo gallery; Film notes by Blum's grandson
There's a pretty good chance that unless you're a fan or student of European history that you're unfamiliar with the name Leon Blum.
Sound familiar, perhaps?
Blum was the first Jew to lead France, but what makes the story even more powerful is that Blum was also a prisoner of the Nazis at the Buchenwald concentration camp after his term as France's Prime Minister as head of the Popular Front alliance of Leftist movements. Blum was an early supporter of women's rights and outspoken activist on behalf of workers. In 1940, his Socialist views and Jewish heritage placed him in jeopardy and the Vichy government deported him to Buchenwald. After the war, Blum was welcomed back to France and ended up being elected Prime Minister again in 1946.
Blum is, for some unknown reason, a bit of a forgotten figure in World War II era history, Director Jean Bodon powerfully captures the multiple layers of Blum's life experience by incorporating interviews with former French prime ministers, writers and historians while also presenting a wealth of archival footage including the only color footage ever shot within a concentration camp along with passionate oratory by Blum, Blum's post-war conversations with U.S. President Harry S. Truman and much more.
While Leon Blum: For All Mankind is a fairly modest 58-minute doc, Bodon packs into the film's 58 minutes a wealth of information that cements the importance of remembering Blum as an important part of history in the mid-20th century.
An official selection of the 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival, Leon Blum: For All Mankind is now available on DVD from distrib First Run Features.
While filmmaker Bodon himself stated that "documentaries have a tendency to be a bit cold," such cannot be said for this rather straightforward yet powerfully constructed documentary bringing to life a man whose story remains worthy to be told.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic