Steve McQueen Occupied City’: Bridging the Shadows of History with the Present

Steve McQueen Occupied City: Steve McQueen’s “Occupied City” bridges the haunting history of Nazi-era Amsterdam with the unsettling specter of contemporary extremism. The four-hour documentary, inspired by a book from McQueen’s wife, Dutch filmmaker Bianca Stigter, intertwines the past and present.

In the teaser trailer unveiled by A24, McQueen’s lens offers an intimate portrayal of modern Amsterdam. It captures the lives of locals as they go about their daily routines, from walking and jogging to skating and dancing. However, the serenity of these visuals is juxtaposed with Melanie Hyam’s narration, which recounts the dark episodes of murder, suicide, resistance, and betrayal that plagued Amsterdam’s Jewish community in the early 1940s. As Nazi Germany’s grip tightened, the noose around their embattled community grew tighter.

The juxtaposition of McQueen’s elegant contemporary Amsterdam and Stigter’s matter-of-fact narration, drawn from her book “Atlas of an Occupied City (Amsterdam 1940-1945),” serves to connect the 1940s with the present, using the Holocaust as a grim foreshadowing of today’s growing extremism.

At one point in the trailer, the viewer hears Hyam recount, “In 1942, the deportations began,” while McQueen’s camera captures a young child joyfully running in front of the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, scattering a flock of seagulls.

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McQueen’s unique documentary approach refrains from directly commenting on the visuals but instead hints at the lingering ghosts of the past. The trailer also features present-day Amsterdam police, whether on horseback, in helicopters, or armored trucks, dispersing crowds, including those protesting the contemporary crackdowns during the COVID era.

“Occupied City,” which made its debut at Cannes and also screened at Telluride and the New York Film Festival, is set to open in theaters on December 25. The documentary boasts a roster of producers, including A24, New Regency, and Film4, among others.

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Our Reader’s Queries

How can I watch occupied city?

As of November 25, 2023, Occupied City (2023) can now be enjoyed from the comfort of your own home. The movie is accessible on HBO Max, exclusively for subscribers.

Is occupied city a documentary?

The 2023 film “Occupied City” is a documentary directed and produced by Steve McQueen, adapted from Bianca Stigter’s book “Atlas of an Occupied City, Amsterdam 1940-1945.” Melanie Hyams narrates the film, which is a collaborative effort between the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States.

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