Carl Marsh speaks to Israeli film director Yoav Paz, who with his brother Doron is the architect of Plan A: a new thriller, based on a true story, concerning a group of Holocaust survivors who hatch a plan to poison the German water supply and kill millions in the spirit of revenge.
This film raises a moral dilemma – what would we the viewers do, had our families been killed by the Nazis during World War II? – but how the survivors in Plan A went about enacting their revenge is such a controversial subject matter. Was there any hesitation, with you and your brother, in actually making this fact-based movie?
Yeah, very much. Dealing with this subject was so scary all along the way. I’ve got to tell you that even last week, we had a closed screening here in Israel, and one of the central [real life] characters’ son and daughter were present in the screening. He’s the only man whose real name we used, because he’s a historical figure, and we were so afraid to understand precisely what their reactions would be.
They came out, and the son told us: “You put your hand into the fire, and you didn’t get burned.” That was a big relief for us. But, in the end, they loved it, and felt that we did a lot of justice for the group. That was very important for us, because it’s such a delicate subject from all sides.
Surely your nearest and dearest questioned your desires to get this film made?
You know, if our friends sometimes asked what we were working on, we’d tell them, and they’d say, “Oh my god, why are you telling this story just to raise more hatred against Jews?” You feel the weight on your shoulders. But we thought it was important to tell the story, and it was about time to tell it. Growing up in Israel, you hear so many Holocaust stories and watch films, but we never heard about Jews trying to take revenge on Nazis or Germans after the war. You never heard it.
How did you do your research? As you say, it’s not a well-known story – not one I was aware of.
When we started this project, we wanted only to do a really small drama. A good friend of ours told us the story of his grandfather, who just before he died told his secret: after the war was over, and he was out of the death camps, he went back to the guy who snitched on his family to the Germans – and killed him. And he hid this big secret all of his life.
We knew this was a powerful story, so we wanted to do a story only on that – but then we started investigating and researching, my brother and me, and it blew our minds. The first time I remember reading on the internet about Plan A, I was like – how come I never heard about this kind of story? Trying to poison six million Germans; five cells of Jews all around Germany; 50 people taking part in this operation. It blew our mind! And then there was also Plan B, but that was too much to put in our film already.
I presume you didn’t just base your research via the internet and books – not many bits of evidence, if any, must have existed in print of such a part of history that Israel probably wanted to brush under the carpet.
So, we know it’s going to be delicate. We know it’s a bomb. We know we’re going to get a lot of backfire. But this is a story. It’s about time to tell it.
The first thing we did was join forces with a professor who was writing a book about the subject. And the second thing was to meet the real survivors – we started meeting a few of them that were still alive, and we heard their stories firsthand. Only then did we start writing the script. So it was a long process: we had a lot of conversations with Jews, with non-Jews and also with German people.
How long ago did you start the process of creating this film?
I think with this project, we started working on it 10 years ago. And yeah, it needed the time. It was a good thing, as it was a long process. Now we are proud of the result – but we want people not to jump to conclusions too fast. It’s really easy to watch the trailer; you can see comments on YouTube as you know. You can just take a second to jump on and make an opinion very fast.
People see a trailer and make up their minds too quickly. Trailers can be equally good and bad!
We really want to ask that people do not jump to any conclusion – they take their time. It’s a complicated story. There’s no black and white here. And if they will watch the film, I think the complexity will be out there, and people will understand how complicated this revenge story was.
Plan A is out now in cinemas and on digital formats; on DVD on Mon 13 Sept. Info: here
words CARL MARSH
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