Directed by Ashley Eakin, the 2022 short film ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’ is a WWII film about a boy with a missing limb. It starts with an uncomfortable math lesson, straight off a Nazi handbook to brainwash impressionable Germans. The teacher asks students to calculate the cost of raising those with disabilities versus those who don’t have any. The unsaid message – families would be better off without them.
Actor Knox Gibson plays Peter, the young boy with a limb difference, who is also an amputee in real life and an equal rights advocate. In the film, Peter runs for his life when Hitler’s men come knocking at his door. Faced with possible death, the boy is forced to make a desperate last stand.
Visually, ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’ conjures up a vivid gloomy war atmosphere, without showing streams of soldiers, weapons and dead bodies. Ashley Eakin takes a risk by resting the entire film on a new teen actor’s shoulders, but Gibson bravely pulls off his part with a gritty performance. The minimalist settings against a snowy winter add to the dark tone of the story.
There was however potential for a longer runtime, but perhaps the makers didn’t have that kind of budget. With less than 15 minutes to tell the tale, ‘Forgive Us Our Trespasses’ is not as powerful or cathartic as it could’ve been. However, it accomplishes its goal of serving as an important historical reminder that Jews weren’t the only ones persecuted by the Nazis. Those with any kind of disabilities were butchered, and even the ‘Aryan Germans’ weren’t spared. When rationing began in warring nations, institutions like mental asylums were the first to face food shortages under the Third Reich, leading to deaths due to starvation. Before the end credits roll in, the short-film displays a quick fact-sheet on Hitler’s Aktion T-4 program – 300,000 disabled people were murdered, and a greater number were sterilized to ensure they didn’t birth children with disabilities.
Eakin’s film wants viewers to remember how unkind history has been to those who were different. It’s available to stream on Netflix.
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