Omer Fast is a Berlin-based video artist raised in Israel and New York. Fast’s work explores the blurring of memory through cinematic conventions used to restage or retell actual historic occurrences. He combines reality with fantasy in films that speak about the power of images to disperse information in both accurate and manufactured forms. Spielberg’s List is a powerful, early endeavor by Fast, who has continued to produce highly-regarded video work.
The film centers around a series of interviews with residents of Krakow, Poland who worked as extras in the 1993 Steven Spielberg film, Schindler’s List, yet their role as actors is never explicitly stated. An image of a flickering candle appears in the opening scenes of both the Hollywood film and Fast’s appropriation, which then cuts between the interviews and exterior images of abandoned Holocaust sites. Over time it becomes clear that the interviewees are actually describing their experiences as extras. One actor tearfully recollects the anguish she felt at having her hair cut prior to her [fictional] death in the gas chamber. Another discusses the way the casting directors “sized them up” and what it means to be scrutinized—not for being Jewish—but for having particular features favorable on screen, such as long hair, dark skin, or an imperfect nose. As the work unfolds, it is revealed that some of the older extras are also real-life Holocaust survivors, further disrupting any reliable discernment of fact and fiction.