“A Blind Hero: The Love of Otto Weidt,” this month’s offering in the Fresno Jewish Film Series, focuses on the efforts of the blind owner of a Berlin factory who fights to save his Jewish and disabled employees from Nazi concentration camps. The fact the film’s based on a true story gave director Kai Christiansen an automatic opening to use blindness as a recurring theme.
On the surface, Weidt’s story is a deeply compassionate tale made even more miraculous by his lack of sight. Weidt uses any method – from negotiations to bribery – to keep the Germans from taking the blind workers from his factory during World War II. He argues that it’s to keep his factory running, but in reality it’s his way of protecting the people who had become like a family to him.
He becomes close to Alice Licht, a Jewish woman with secretarial skills. She must pretend to be a factory worker as the German forbid Jews from holding any kind of office position. The relationship between Weidt and Licht grows, yet Christiansen never reveals if this connection is more like a father-daughter bond or goes deeper.
Either way, it’s clear that the blind can see deep into a soul. Weidt used that vision to keep his employees working. When the Germans can no longer be manipulated, Weidt finds a way to hide the workers.
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This is an amazing accomplishment by anyone. But, Weidt’s will to succeed is far greater than the challenges that come with his lack of vision. That makes his efforts even more heroic.
The film also deals with a world that has gone blind. There’s the way the Germans don’t see the Jewish residents as being human. They have turned a blind eye to the realities of what is happening with the endless train treks to the prison camps.
There’s a pain and sorry in the eyes of the workers as they begin to realize the world no longer sees them. That realization makes their plight even more painful and horrific.
Christiansen’s biggest flaw is the pacing of the movie. He is in no rush to set up the story and develop the relationship between Weidt and Licht. Once their situation changes, the tempo increases and in the process gets muddled. There are big gaps in the tale that passed over to get to the emotional end.
When the director keeps a firm hand on the film, the story of Weidt is as touching as it is amazing. In a world where Weidt is blind, Christiansen shows he is one of the few people who really sees what is happening and does something about it.
This screening, which is part of the film series, comes with a prepaid deli menu that will include Jewish “soul food” samplings. The cost is $12. For more information on the deli service or screening, call 559-439-9638 or 285-0013.
“A Blind Hero” will be shown at Temple Beth Israel, 6622 N. Maroa Ave. It starts at 7:15 p.m. and will be preceded by an episode of “S’rugim.”