Documentary Filmmaker Pierre Sauvage Displays the Power of Story Through “Weapons of the Spirit” – Asbury University
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October 24, 2022

This week, Asbury welcomed the last Honors Program speaker for fall 2022 to the Miller screening room for a chance to watch a newly remastered version of his 1989 feature documentary, Weapons of the Spirit. Emmy-winning French-American documentary filmmaker and child survivor of the Holocaust, Pierre Sauvage, discussed the inspiration behind his film, as well as some of the key themes and messages that flow through the experience.

Sauvage did not grow up religiously Jewish and did not find out about his ethnicity until the age of 18 because of his parents not acknowledging their family’s heritage.

“People assumed that the film was the work of a dutiful child somehow fulfilling his parents’ fondest wishes and that he had been raised on these stories,” said Sauvage, “It’s actually the exact opposite, and it was really a film of a rebellious child claiming rights to his past that his parents had deprived him of.”

The highly acclaimed documentary tells the story of the “conspiracy of goodness” of a mountain community in Le Chambon, France, that defied the Nazis and took in and saved thousands of Jews, including Sauvage, who was born there.

“I realized that this was a story that needed to be told, and now it is a gallery of people who are gone,” said Sauvage.

The film is a documented vision of love for community, and what a group of individuals choose as a course of action eventually lead them to saving more than 500 Jews.

“The main message of the film is also a message of personal responsibility,” said Sauvage. “We are responsible for what we do and what we do not do.”

Although growing up in an anti-religious environment, Sauvage now approaches those with faith in high respects, demonstrating in the film that people are able to act on their faith in ways productive and useful to society through what he learned from the people of  Le Chambon.

“I really would like the film to reach Christian audiences, and that’s not easy because I believe Christians feel ‘that’s for the Jews and not for us,’” said Sauvage. “The heroes of the stories are the Christians, so there is relevance for them.”

Three other documentaries by Sauvage will be released or re-released in 2022: Not Idly By—Peter Bergson, America and the Holocaust, Yiddish: the Mother Tongue, and We Were There: Christians and the Holocaust.