Sally Potter

The Man Who Cried

Interviewed by James Mottram

The film is about survival. Why did you want to look at this theme?

For anybody that grew up in the 20th century, I think we all grew up under the shadow of the war. I'd spent a lot of my life trying to make sense of that. Yet the Holocaust, in the way it was being portrayed, was in danger of becoming pornographic. What I wanted to do was make a film about the fact the Holocaust didn't win. Not all the Jews were killed. Not all the gypsies were killed. People did survive, and the memories of those that did die survives in the celebration of the lives of the people that lived through it.

What do you mean by 'pornographic'?

It's important not to forget what happened, but does actually pushing images in peoples' faces necessarily help them to remember in the right way? Otherwise, it can become like an isolated event that we've become numbed to, rather than understanding that the roots of persecution and betrayal exist in everyday relationships. It's not just that the Germans were really evil people, but that there was a phenomenon that allowed people to collude with the scapegoating of one particular group. That's the root of it.

Are you personally connected, in some way, to the experience?

I'm not Jewish myself, but this is where it gets interesting. In a way we're all Jewish, in the sense that the Holocaust could never have happened if people had said "It could just as easily be me." There are also many parallels between the Jews and the Gypsies, as persecuted groups, as travellers dispersed across Europe. But the principle of scapegoating is the same as any other kind of racism, it's the principle of dehumanising people. Using difference or otherness for the basis for fear.

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