Documentary about Simon Wiesenthal panned by NYT

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The legacy of the concentration camp survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal is one of unimpeachable bravery, but "I Have Never Forgotten You," a new documentary, is a suspect monument to his courage.

Directed by Richard Trank, also its co-author, the film effectively sketches Mr. Wiesenthal's life, from his tenacity in surviving the genocide that claimed much of his family, to his determination to identify, find and punish ex-Nazis after World War II, at a time when many governments would have preferred to "move on."

Using file footage, photographs, newsreel snippets and interviews with friends, relatives and former colleagues, "I Have Never Forgotten You" is a testament to Mr. Wiesenthal's bulldog stubbornness. We learn, by his own admission, that he didn't spend nearly as much time with his wife and daughter as he might have wished, and that he demanded that they continue to live in his hometown, Vienna, despite decades of threats against the family by former Hitler supporters and neo-Nazi agitators.

Near the end of the movie Mr. Wiesenthal, now 90, breaks down while accepting an award and begs his audience not to characterize him as a hero because his good deeds came out of an epic sense of survivor's guilt.

Alas, Mr. Trank refuses to heed his subject's advice. "I Have Never Forgotten You" works overtime to make Mr. Wiesenthal seem quirky and lovable, and dilutes its complex, inherently dark subject matter by deploying every documentary film cliché in existence. (These include the still-photo-becomes-3-D gimmick popularized by "The Kid Stays in the Picture," which seems especially inappropriate when applied to the haunting sketches that Mr. Wiesenthal, a former architectural draughtsman, made in the camps. Didn't Mr. Trank think they were interesting enough as is?)

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