Yesterday, I was invited to a preview (the first-ever public screening) of the feature-length documentary "Night Will Fall" at the BFI Southbank. The audience comprised those involved with the making of the film. My father, Leonard Berney, appears on screen many times, giving his account of the liberation of Bergen-Belsen.
The film is really quite harrowing and it doesn't pull any punches at all. It gets across in graphic detail what it was like to witness the horrors at the aftermath of the Nazi concentration camps, close up. Just watching it on film was difficult enough, so to have actually been there; to have seen it and smelled it first hand is an experience that is difficult to imagine.
When the credits had finished rolling and the lights had faded up, the audience were in stunned silence.
Night Will Fall (2014)
Feature Length Documentary
In the spring of 1945, Allied forces liberating Europe found evidence of atrocities which have tortured the world’s conscience ever since. As the troops entered the German concentration camps, they made a systematic film record of what they saw. Work began on a documentary to show the horror they witnessed to the German population.
Sidney Bernstein, chief of the Psychological Warfare Film Section of SHAEF commissioned the film. Those involved in the production included Alfred Hitchcock and renowned editor Stewart McAllister; they produced perhaps the most remarkable testament of the 20th Century. “No German can say he didn’t know” insists the commentary, co-written by Richard Crossman, the future cabinet minister.
These sentiments were judged by the British Government to be unsuitable to the bridge-building mood towards Germany. The film was never shown.
40 years later an American researcher found a rusty can marked “F3080” in the vaults of London’s Imperial War Museum. It was in very poor condition and the last roll was missing, but in 1985 a scratched and blurry copy was shown on PBS in America. Now after three years of work by Dr Toby Haggith of the IWM, the entire film has been fully restored and piece by piece, frame by frame, the lost last reel has been put together from the original shot lists. For the first time in history the completed “F3080” is ready to be shown.
Spring Films is co-producing with Angel TV a 90 minute documentary for theatrical and television release. This documentary, ‘Night Will Fall’ is to coincide with the release of the remastered original film and will tell the remarkable story behind the making of the film, the people involved and the reasons why it was never shown.
Director: André Singer
Directorial Advisor: Stephen Frears
Executive Producer: Richard Melman
Producer: Sally Angel