After I-forget-how-many-years of announcing, shooting, editing and promotion (going back to least 2008 if not 1997, depending on shifting definitions of when it really began), episodes of Oliver Stone‘s Untold History of the United States will finally start airing on Showtime on Monday, November 12th, and will continue…what is it, eight or ten weeks? Ten, I think.
Screenings of the first three episodes at the 2011 NY Film Festival were cancelled because they weren’t quite ready. So they screened instead at the 2012 NY Film Festival, or about three and half weeks ago. A 120-minute segment is screening at the Aero on Thursday night followed by Stone doing a q & a. I can’t attend due to the AFI Fest prmiere and the first showing anywhere of Hitchcock.
Stone is an entrenched anti-corporate, antiwar-machine lefty from way back. I’ve come to know him fairly well through personal contact over the years and through mutual friends, and he’s always been extremely bright, engaged, inquisitive, insightful, and bold-strokey in his thinking. It gioes without saying that Untold History of the United States will not contain the usual homilies and rote history-class statistics. History outside the safe zone. That’s what Stone does time and again (except when he made World Trade Center).
Example: Two and a half years ago Stone noted that Adolf Hitler “did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people.” This statement is certainly not inaccurate.
According to a Wikipedia WWII death chart, the total number of Russan deaths, both military and civilian, during World War II came to 23,954,000 — a little more than 14% of the total Russan population. That’s a staggering figure. (The total number of U.S. military/civilian deaths during that conflict was 418,500, which represented 1/3 of 1% of the population at the time.) The total number of Jewish Holocaust deaths during World War II was 5,752,400.
And yet the Holocaust, according to U.S. media and history books, is the reigning horror of World War II, and not the fact that almost one in seven Russians were killed by Nazi Germany. This impression is due, of course, to the racial hatred behind the Holocaust and to the coldly methodical manner in which German officers and soldiers carried out the attempted extermination of European Jewry. But why is it that awareness of the scale of Russian WWII deaths barely registers alongside the Holocaust in this country?
Stone was essentially observing that the most historical authorities have placed an understandable but disproportionate emphasis on the Holocaust in considering the totality of horrors caused by Nazi Germany, and that certain powerful figures in this country’s big media constellation have probably had a hand in this. That doesn’t seem like a hugely crazy thing to say. Not that awareness of the Holocaust isn’t an immensely important lesson for each and every citizen to learn and reflect upon. But where are the Russian death museums in this country? Where are all the Russan death documentaries that have either won or been nominated for Oscars?