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Before the Fall (2004)
Director: Dennis Gansel
Starring: Max Riemelt, Tom Schilling, Devid Striesow and Jonas Jägermeyr
In 1942, Friedrich Weimer's boxing skills get him an appointment to a National Political Academy (NaPolA) - high schools that produce Nazi elite. Over his father's objections, Friedrich enrolls, seeing this as his ticket out of factory life to university and a good salary.
During his year in seventh form, this innocence is altered as Friedrich encounters hazing, cruelty, death and the Nazi code. His friendship with Albrecht, the ascetic son of the area's governor, is central to this education; a night in the forest hunting for escaped Russian POWs brings things to a head.
The Book Thief (2013)
Director: Brian Percival
Starring: Geoffrey Rush, Emily Watson, Sophie Nélisse, Nico Liersch, Barbara Auer, Oliver Stokowski, Rainer Bock, Heike Makatsch, Roger Allam and Sebastian Hülk
While subjected to the horrors of WWII Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others, including a Jewish refugee who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents under the stairs in her home.
Director: Mark Herman
Based on the novel by John Boyne
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Asa Butterfield, Jack Scanlon, David Thewlis, Rupert Friend, Amber Beattie, Richard Johnson, Sheila Hancock, David Hayman and Jim Norton
A fictional story that offers a unique perspective on how prejudice, hatred and violence affect innocent people, particularly children, during wartime.
Through the lens of an eight-year-old boy largely shielded from the reality of World War II, we witness a forbidden friendship that forms between Bruno, the son of Nazi commandant, and Schmuel, a Jewish boy held captive in a concentration camp. Though the two are separated physically by a barbed wire fence, their lives become inescapably intertwined.
The Bridge (1959)
Director: Bernhard Wicki
Starring: Folker Bohnet, Fritz Wepper, Michael Hinz and Frank Glaubrecht
A group of German boys is ordered to protect a small bridge in their home village during the waning months of the Second World War. Truckloads of defeated, cynical Wehrmacht soldiers flee the approaching American troops, but the boys, full of enthusiasm for the "blood and honor" Nazi ideology, stay to defend the useless bridge.
Director: Donna Deitch
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Brittany Murphy, Paul Freeman and Mimi Rogers
When Hannah Stern, a 13 year-old girl neglectful to her Jewish heritage and "tired of remembering," goes to open the door to the prophet Elijha during the Seder she finds herself in 1940s Poland. After being sent to a Nazi concentration camp she must use her knowledge of the future to survive the past and learn something about the importance of remembering.
The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
Director: George Stevens
Starring: Millie Perkins, Shelley Winters, Joseph Schildkraut and Richard Beymer
With the Gestapo combing Amsterdam in search of Jews, Anne Frank and her parents, Otto and Edith, take refuge for two years in a small attic with another Jewish family, the Van Daans, and a dentist named Albert Dussell. Their refuge is provided by Gentile shop owners Kraler and Miep.
Despite their precarious situation and the sense of claustrophobia created by having to live together in such crowded conditions, covering the windows during the day and keeping as quiet as possible at all times, the families carry on as best they can. For Anne, her platonic romance with Peter Van Daan, the attractive son of often voluble parents, makes the experience more bearable than it is for the adults, whose sense of foreboding is palpable. Anne records everything daily in her diary.
Emma's War (1987)
Director: Clytie Jessop
Starring: Lee Remick, Miranda Otto, Mark Lee and Terence Donovan
With husband away at the war, Anne Grange has taken to drinking and dancing with strangers in bars. Meanwhile, her daughters Emma and Laurel thrive under the eccentric tuition of stout Miss Arnott in a college town in the Blue Mountains of Australia until their mother sends them to the countryside to avoid the threatened Japanese bombing raids. There, l4-year-old Emma becomes friends with a young, poetry-reading conscientious objector.
Empire of the Sun (1987)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Based on the book by J.G. Ballard
Starring: Christian Bale, John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson and Nigel Havers
An English youth is separated from his family at the start of World War II after the Japanese Army invades British controlled areas of China. Reduced to living on the street and fighting for food, the boy is eventually interned in a Japanese POW camp for British civilians.
Director: Giacomo Battiato
Starring: Klaus Maria Brandauer, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Claire Keim, Stephen Moyer, Ken Duken, Gottfried John, Thomas Heinze and Giovanna Mezzogiorno
Hoping to entrap Maria von Gall, who runs a courageous underground railroad for Jews in France, the Nazis kidnap her son Thomas, a brilliant 11-year-old chess master. An exchange arrangement goes awry and he sees her die in a hail of bullets; but he is rescued by his American father, whom he has never met before, and who plans to flee with him to Spain.
However, Queen Maria had solemnly entrusted her little pawn Thomas with a precious secret and a terrifying mission, and it was time for him to move. A pawn may become an important piece by slowly, quietly advancing all the way through the enemy's ranks. Or a pawn may die trying. Retreat is what a pawn can never do.
Goodbye, Children (1987)
Director: Louis Malle
Starring: Gaspard Manesse, Raphael Fejtö, Francine Racette and Stanislas Carré de Malberg
A French boarding school run by priests seems to be a haven from World War II until a new student arrives. He becomes the roommate of the top student in his class. Rivals at first, the roommates form a bond and share a secret.
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Director: Roberto Benigni
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Giorgio Cantarini, Giustino Durano and Horst Buchholz
A Jewish man has a wonderful romance with the help of his humour, but must use that same quality to protect his son in a Nazi death camp.
Nowhere in Africa (2001)
Director: Caroline Link
Based on the book by Stephanie Zweig
Starring: Juliane Köhler, Merab Ninidze, Matthias Habich, Sidede Onyulo, Lea Kurka, Karoline Eckertz, Anthony Bate, Andrew Sachs and Diane Keen
A German Jewish refugee family flees Nazi Germany moves to and adjusts to a farm life in 1930s Kenya.
Elle s'appelait Sarah (2010)
Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Aidan Quinn and Frédéric Pierrot
In modern-day Paris, an American journalist finds her life becoming entwined with a young Jewish girl whose family was torn apart during the notorious Vel' d'Hiv Roundup in 1942.
Stray Dogs (2004)
Director: Marzieh Makhmalbaf
Starring: Gol-Ghotai, Zahed, Agheleh Rezaie, Maydeh Gol, Sohrab Akbari and Jamil Ghanazideh
The story of survival of 2 children in post-Taliban Afghanistan. Their mother has been imprisoned for "adultery" and their father is in Guantanamo Bay. They decide to 'adopt' a stray dog that the local children tried to kill because they believed him to be American.
Director: Naji Abu Nowar
Starring: Jack Fox, Jacir Eid, Hussein Salameh, Hassan Mutlag and Marji Audeh
In 1916, young Theeb lives with his Bedouin tribe in a remote part of the Ottoman Empire. When his older brother has to escort a British officer across the desert, Theeb tags along for the adventure.
Winter in Wartime (2008)
Director: Martin Koolhoven
Starring: Martijn Lakemeier, Jamie Campbell Bower, Yorick van Wageningen and Raymond Thiry.
Nazi-occupied Holland, 1945. In a snow-covered village, thirteen-year-old Michiel is drawn into the Resistance when he aids a wounded British paratrooper.
Michiel's boyish sense of defiance and adventure soon turns to danger and desperation as he is forced to act without knowing whom to trust among the adults and townspeople around him. The wartime harsh reality encroaches on childhood innocence as Michiel confronts good and evil, courage and duplicity, and his own burden of responsibility.
A list of my favorite war films featuring children, mostly shown from the child's point of view.
Listed in alphabetical order.
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