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Freedom begins with an act of defiance! 

Year: 2009 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is expected to have certain elements which are subtitled, but it is not expected that the entire film will contain them. 
Directed by Edward Zwick 
Starring: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell  
An image from Defiance

As the Nazi forces sweep through eastern Europe, targeting the Jewish people and forcing them into ghettos – or mass graves – the four Bielski brothers, witnessing their parent’s death, flee into a nearby forest and vow to take revenge. Over the next three years, they shelter a growing community of refugees, as well as raiding and harassing the nearby German army. However, over time, the brothers come to conflict, and the constant running from the encroaching Nazi forces takes its toll. The eldest, Tuvia (Craig), takes charge and must control not only his growing number of supporters, but also his rebellious brothers.

The three lead performances are as superb as they are different – Craig is exellent as the conflicted, reluctant Tuvia, Schreiber as the warlike Zus and Jamie Bell develops his acting chops further as defiantly heroic Asael. Director Zwick does a good job of turning the facts of the Bielski brothers’ story into an engaging and thoughtful war movie. Shot in Lithuania not far from where the actual events took place, Defiance is suitably grimy and captures the essence of the experience. Tuvia’s struggle to keep the group safe is played off against his brother Zus’ desire for revenge against the Nazis, and the film does not shy away from showing the more controversial aspects of the story – the group were essentially bandits, and stole as much from the farms and fields of Belarus as they did from the Nazis.

Not without a dose of black humour, Defiance does a good job of portraying a story that not many people have even heard, let alone studied. The ending on-screen text reminds the audience that this was a true story, and that the brothers were responsible for the lives of over a thousand Jewish refugees. Both haunting and stirring, Defiance is an important film and not to be missed.

Marcus Kelly

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Screenings of this film:

2008/2009 Summer Term (35mm)
2008/2009 Summer Term (35mm)