Aspen Shortsfest: ‘The Driver is Red’ recounts the 1960 capture of Adolf Eichmann
IF YOU GO …
What: ‘The Driver is Red’ at Aspen Shortsfest
Where: Wheeler Opera House, Aspen; Crystal Theatre, Carbondale
When: Aspen Saturday, April 7, 8 p.m.; Carbondale Sunday, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $20 ($15 for Aspen Film members)
Tickets: Wheeler Opera House box office; www.aspenshowtix.com
More info: ‘The Driver is Red’ is one of seven short films in a 92-minute program that will be followed by a Q&A with director Randall Christopher.
Fifteen years after the end of World War II, on the other side of the world from the battlefields and extermination camps, Svi Aharoni and his team of Israeli spies hunted down the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann in Argentina.
Eichmann’s dramatic capture in 1960, which brought the mass murderer to justice and led to his execution, is brought to life in a riveting new 15-minute animated documentary, “The Driver is Red,” which will screen at Aspen Shortsfest on Saturday, April 7.
The film, by Randall Christopher, recounts the extraordinary feats of Mossad spycraft that led Aharoni to tackle Eichmann — who was living under a false name in Buenos Aires — and fly him to Israel. The film’s title is borrowed from the code phrase Aharoni used to confirm Aharoni had found Eichmann.
The film’s distinct, noir-ish visual style mimics the look of pen-and-ink sketches with black marks on a sepia background. Christopher had initially conceived the film in a more elaborate and colorful visual style, with another artist doing the animation. But as he sketched out the scenes he’d need for the film, he realized how fitting this stark style would be to his story.
The simple animation puts the film’s first-person narration from Aharoni — voiced by actor Mark Pinter — at the forefront.
“Artistically, it’s more about what’s being said,” Christopher explains. “If I had someone else do it, you would get locked into the imaginative drawings and it would distract you from the story. Whereas this straightforward — and, honestly, boring — illustrative style that I developed for this thing works a lot better because it doesn’t distract you.”
The film premiered in October at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and has picked up buzz on the festival circuit since then with stops at Sundance and elsewhere.
Christopher started work on the film in early 2016, not knowing that a new wave of white supremacist movements and Nazi sympathizers would emerge in the U.S. He hopes the film will offer a reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust.
“I had no idea that in 2017 people would be marching on American soil with swastikas,” he says.
Its origin is in a newspaper story about Eichmann’s appeal letter from his trial being made public several years ago. The story piqued Christopher’s interest. At the time, the filmmaker had only a general knowledge about the Holocaust but began reading deeply about Nazi history and the work of the Mossad to hunt down Nazi officials.
“I went down that rabbit hole,” he says.
A key source for “The Driver is Red” is Mossad chief Isser Harel’s memoir “The House on Garibaldi Street,” which details the daring operation and James Bond-esque tactics used to capture Eichmann in Argentina.
“I never really thought of it as a documentary,” Christopher says of his film. “I just wanted to make a story.”
Christopher chose to tell this story through Aharoni because the Israeli spy was German-born and lost most of his family to the Holocaust, which made his yearslong hunt for Eichmann a matter of personal revenge.
The film is a departure for Christopher, whose past animation work includes the kids’ cartoon “Kleeman and Mike” and the live action-animated skateboard mash-ups of “Skate Sketch.” The critical response to “The Driver is Red” may be sending him in a different direction as a filmmaker.
“I don’t know if I’ll do more animated (films) but I want to do some live action with the same kind of storytelling,” he said.
But Eichmann’s capture, as a film subject, appears to already be taken. A film starring Ben Kingsely as Eichmann, Oscar Isaac as Mossad agent Peter Malkin and Michael Aranov as Aharoni is due for release this fall.
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