Inspiration. It”s a word that we hear quite often nowadays in the wake of America”s tragedies. Often we assume that inspiration can only come from idealism or charity. Almost 60 years ago, a group of ordinary people wrought with extraordinary strife took it upon themselves to start a revolution against an indecent foe. On Sunday, inspiration cannot encompass the overwhelming outpouring of emotion when NBC airs the first of its two-part miniseries, “Uprising.”
“Uprising” chronicles the compelling story of a group of Jewish resistance fighters within the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II. After the German invasion of Poland in 1939, 350,000 Polish Jews were rounded up and forced to live in dire circumstances, surrounded by walls and secluded from the rest of the city. Facing starvation, mass executions and relocation to concentration camps, the Jews of the Ghetto clung to the hope that human decency would prevail upon unspeakable tragedy. Out of the depths of human cruelty, a small group took it upon themselves to create the Jewish Fighting Organization. With no food, supplies or arms, these brave men and women could no longer rest on hope, instead turned to the only thing that they could believe in, their honor.
It is easily possible to be overwhelmed by “Uprising” and it is not for the faint of heart. Even those familiar with the other Holocaust texts will find “Uprising” a far cry from the likes of “The Diary of Anne Frank,” though as gripping as “Schindler”s List.” The entire miniseries is emotionally charged, leaving little room for the viewer to catch his breath. From pointed shots of executions to the wheelbarrows of lifeless bodies, “Uprising” actually puts the viewer backing into that time frame, refusing to forgive or reduce the truth of the tale.
While most will say that “Uprising” is just a star-driven vehicle for November sweeps the cast includes: Hank Azaria (“Tuesdays with Morrie”), David Schwimmer (“Friends”) and Donald Sutherland (“Space Cowboys”) it is important to look past the uneven acting and ratings-hungry network and consider the unspeakable tragedy that you are watching. In an outstanding performance, Sutherland portrays Adam Czerniakow, the morally conflicted head of the Ghetto”s Jewish Council. For Czerniakow, total submission to the Nazi decries would lead to better conditions, but even his greatest intentions and efforts were thwarted by his own naivet.
Azaria takes on the role of the idealist Mordechai Anielewicz, who with Yitzhak Zuckerman (Schwimmer), leads the resistance fighters through a heroic battle against an insurmountable enemy. Although their accents could use a little work, these two stars portray their respective characters with determination and emotion.
“Uprising” is a sea of gut-wrenching action that will take your breath away. This is not a miniseries to take lightly, nor is it one to miss out of fear of seriousness. “Uprising” gives a voice to the thousands that died and it seems quite poignant today, bringing perspective to our own ongoing crisis. As we yearn to deal with our own acts of heroism and terror, maybe taking inspiration from the past will help.