'British Nazis' film to be shown uncut after 30-year ban

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The Independent Online
The full version of a film which features British Nazis discussing the extermination of Jews will be given its British premiere in the Channel Islands this week.

Kevin Brownlow's controversial It Happened Here, censored upon its release in 1966, has been completely restored for its showing at the Jersey International Festival on 1 October.

The film, a dark and unsettling exploration of a Nazi-occupied Britain, caused outrage upon its release 30 years ago because of its realistic documentary style. The Board of Deputies of British Jews thought that a scene in which associates of Oswald Mosley talk about their reasons for wiping out Jews was likely to be dangerously convincing to the public and successfully lobbied for it to be cut.

The screening in Jersey this week is expected to spark protests from locals because Brownlow studied the Channel Islands occupation for his film and picked up on British queasiness about collaboration there. A review in the Spectator in1966 noted: "To see it all so familiarly sited is to feel the crawl of fear on one's scalp." This week the film's creator will come face to face with people who actually experienced the Nazi occupation.

The censored version of the film, denounced by the Jewish Chronicle as a "foul outpouring", received only limited distribution before being withdrawn in 1968 and Brownlow's career as a director was seriously affected. Earlier this year, the film's owners United Artists decided it no longer represented a threat and after decades of talks with Brownlow, awarded control of it back to him. He immediately restored the censored scene.

According to Brownlow, its inclusion is crucial to the film's importance. "My partner Andrew Mollo and I were very conscious that the race hatred that is the heart of national socialism was missing from the film," he said. "It was difficult for us to write convincing dialogue because we didn't share those views so we had to bring in people who thought like that.

"It was all filmed spontaneously: we simply asked them questions and filmed their responses. Their replies were chilling. We felt so appalled by what they had said that we were sure audiences would too. They had condemned themselves from their own mouths".

Linda Holt, historian and author of books about the occupation, witnessed the film's world premiere in Berlin in May. "The German audience was disturbed because the film challenged their image of a Britain which could never have succumbed to fascism. Until they saw It Happened Here they had always seen fascism as a purely German problem."

Brownlow says the film aims to show how British people become involved in such a regime. He anticipates mixed reactions at the St Helier Arts Centre on Tuesday. "I am simply hoping for some interest. People still don't understand what fascism was because other films still refuse to touch it."

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