Germany / UK, 2001 (MIFF 2002, Documentaries)
Director: Kevin Brownlow, Michael Kloft
When Victoria Chaplin, daughter of Charles, rummaged through her father's effects she stumbled across a pile of new film rolls. Revealed here for the first time, the find is Sydney Chaplin's colour documentation of his brother's 1940 masterpiece, The Great Dictator. For Charles, his satire on Hitler's regime threatened to undo him: his peers and Hollywood's Jewish moguls feared the film would inflame existing prejudices. It ended up earning him twice as much as his other films, already breaking box office records.
Acclaimed at the 2002 Berlin Film Festival, and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, the film moulds Sydney Chaplin's raw footage into a fascinating 'what if?' case: casting two of the century's most influential players, Chaplin and Hitler, against each other. That they were born four days apart is just the first of many coincidences that marked their tumultuous lives. With unlimited access to Chaplin's artistic estate, filmmakers Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft explore the trials of filming in Hollywood, the Nazi reaction to the film's success and Hitler's personal relationship with a film that dared to parody him.
Kevin Brownlow (born in Crowborough, 1938) has published numerous books, directed several documentaries on film history and directed two other feature films. Michael Kloft (born in Germany, 1961) is the director of the Spiegel TV History series.