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During the time of the Third Reich, Germany made close to 1,200 feature films. Around 300 of those titles were banned as propaganda, while 40 of those are still restricted to audiences today. Forbidden Films looks at two sides of a long-standing debate, about whether or not these inflammatory films should remain banned. Director Felix Moeller goes to screenings, film classes and libraries to explore how today’s audiences react to these infamous titles.

Forbidden Films is an eye-opening and thought-provoking look at the power of propaganda films. Moeller and the scholars, teachers, filmmakers and viewers he interviews rarely agree about whether these films should remain forbidden. On one hand, the films have prime educational value about a dark period. On the other hand, watched in a certain context, some audiences may embrace the stereotypes and repugnant messages the stories promote. The director even interviews a neo-Nazi who praises these provocative films as “truth.”

Nevertheless, this is not a dry, academic essay film. Moeller includes clips from several of these banned titles, including Homecoming and Jew Süss. Those two films remain two of Germany’s biggest grossers of all time, perhaps due to their nationalist fervour and anti-Semitic content. As we watch these clips, we become a part of the complex debate about whether these films should remain censored or be preserved as historical documents.