This powerful drama about the legal battle between ultra-right wing UK historian David Irving and US Holocaust studies academic Deborah Lipstadt could hardly have arrived at a more appropriate moment.
That the Holocaust as a topic has a lasting relevance is obvious, but as the film’s title makes clear, it’s not just the historical event so much as the associated phenomenon of denialism – the attempt to erase it from history and excuse the perpetrators – that lies at the heart of the drama.
Add to that the echoes now being felt of the darkest currents of 1930s politics, and the film’s subtext grows even timelier. In this age of “alternative facts”, when the powerful not only lie but try to make us not care about whether the notion of the truth any longer has meaning, and when deniers of anthropomorphic climate change are lavishly funded by billionaires, the film has a deeper and more wide-ranging impact than anyone might have expected only a few years ago.
Irving (played here by Timothy Spall) sued Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) and her publisher Penguin Books for libel in the British courts in 1996 for calling him a liar in...