Topic: Holocaust Movie Tourism
A two-channel video work by Omer Fast.
A number of feature films have inspired the creation of tours of the sites where the films were made and/or the events that they recreate originally took place. Typically, these tours are created not by the films' producers, but arise independent of the films, in response to their popularity and public curiosity about the making of the films or the stories they tell. Through these practices, films transform the locations in which they were shot into destinations and complicate the significance of historical sites implicated in the stories that they tell.
Several such tours are relevant for Jewish religious tourist practices. They include the 17-day Exodus Tours of Israel offered by El Al Airline during the months following the release of Otto Preminger's 1961 film of Leon Uris's epic novel, Exodus; various guided walking/driving tours of Cracow and environs to visit sites associated with the making of Steven Spielberg's 1993 film, Schindler's List, and a self-guided walking tour of the Tuscan town of Arezzo to visit locations where scenes from Roberto Begnini's 1998 film La Vita e Bella (Life Is Beautiful) were shot. Movie tours evoke the power of pilgrimage--i.e., travel to the site where a well-known story, often valued as a definitional narrative, originates--as they elevate a film to the stature of a sacred text. Here, they figure in the elaboration of two key topics of American Jewish civil religion: the Holocaust and the State of Israel.
A hybrid of two kinds of mediation--the feature film and the tourist production--movie tourism is an especially complex cultural genre. More than merely juxtaposing the virtual world of the film with the actual world of the tourist site, the movie tour refracts the site through the lens of the film and deliberately destabilizes distinctions between the times, events, and locations belonging either to the cinematic experience or the tourist experience. Consequently, it opens up possibilities for an imagined experience of entering the virtual world of a movie in unparalleled ways. At the same time, the movie tour's attention to the process of a film's creation can enhance the viewer's ability to see it as a constructed work of art vis-a-vis its relation to historical or geographical actuality.
How do movies shape historical events and the sites associated with them? In particular, how do movies create destinations out of the locations in which they are set (whether fictional or real) or are filmed?
How does going on movie tours compare with other forms of film fandom (e.g., taking tours of Hollywood studios or of stars' homes; reading fan magazines; joining fan clubs; collecting autographs)? With other forms of travel to historical or religious sites (e.g., Civil War battlefields, sites of Nazi-run death camps, the Vatican, Jerusalem's Old City)?
How does the experience of a film compare to the experience of a tourist visit? How, in turn, do these compare to various kinds of religious experience (listening to a Bible story or sermon, participating in the ritual of reading scripture or communal prayer, watching a religious drama, such as a Passion play or a Purim play)?
What does this comparison reveal about the kinds of experience engaged in the movie tour? How do the forms, methods, and requirements of tourism--and movie tourism in particular--foster or obviate spiritual, religious, numinous, personally meaningful or transformative experiences?
Torchin, Leshu. "Location, Location, Location: The Destination of the Manhattan TV Tour," Tourist Studies 2, 3 (2002): 247-266. Online access through Ingenta. Please consult your library.
The World Wide Guide to Movie Locations