Arts & Culture

Clip: Ari Libsker Discusses Stalags, His Documentary on Holocaust Porn

Joshua Suzanne, proprietor of the East Village’s Rags-a-Go-Go, likes to talk to people who wander into her shop. And she likes to videotape herself talking to them, and to post said videos on YouTube. Luckily, she had her camcorder poised … Read More

By / April 15, 2008

Joshua Suzanne, proprietor of the East Village’s Rags-a-Go-Go, likes to talk to people who wander into her shop. And she likes to videotape herself talking to them, and to post said videos on YouTube. Luckily, she had her camcorder poised and ready when Israeli filmmaker Ari Libsker came a’calling. What emerged was a strange but compelling, accent-inflected (hers: Massachusetts, his: Israeli) conversation about Libsker’s new documentary, Stalags, which opened at the Film Forum last Wednesday.

Libsker’s much-buzzed-about film explores the popular literary genre of Holocaust porn that emerged in the 60s. The booklets (stalags) were a huge hit among Israelis, particularly the children of survivors, who were led to believe the tales of buxom Nazi prison guards raping and torturing captured American soldiers were for real. (Indiewire has a pretty in-depth assessment of the phenomenon in its review of Libsker’s film.)

Libsker tells Suzanne he was motivated by a desire to know what could have possibly made this sexy but sadistic (or masochistic, depending on how you look at it) genre so popular in Israel. Time Out New York’s David Fear posits a more specific corollary question: “The insane popularity of this pulp-porn among Israelis makes you wonder: Was this the result of a society searching for catharsis in smut, or the largest case of Stockholm syndrome ever diagnosed?”

Libsker’s topic is inarguably fascinating, and the New York Times review of the film  criticizes only its brevity. (It’s just too short — 63 minutes — to do the topic justice).

Nestled among racks of second-hand shirts, the filmmaker and the shopgirl manage to have an important little chat about a topic that is as disturbing as it is titillating. And in an interesting twist, Libsker tells Suzanne that those wishing to view a YouTube clip of his film can do so on his Web site, www.stalags.com. Go ahead and try. YouTube removed the video for use of the words “sex” and “Holocaust.”

Stalags plays at Film Forum through April 22.