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THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS

The Genesis of the Film
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a fable intended to provide a unique perspective on the effects of prejudice, hatred and violence on innocent people, particularly children, during wartime. Through the eyes of a fanciful, eight year-old German boy who is largely shielded from the realities of the war, we witness a forbidden friendship that develops between Bruno, son of a Nazi commandant, and Shmuel, a Jewish boy imprisoned in a concentration camp. Although physically separated by a barbed wire fence, the boys' lives become inescapably intertwined.

"It goes without saying that a work of fiction set in the time and place of the Holocaust is contentious and any writers who tackle such stories had better be sure of their intentions before they begin. This is perhaps particularly important in the case of a book written for children,” says John Boyne, author of the bestselling novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. "For me, a 34-year-old Irish writer, it seemed that the only respectful way to approach the subject was through innocence, with a fable told from the point of view of a rather naive child who couldn't possibly understand the horrors of what he was caught up in. I believe that this naiveté is as close as someone of my generation can get to the dreadfulness of that period.”

Boyne continues: "What happens in this place? Bruno wonders. Why are there so many people on the other side of the fence? Simple questions, perhaps, but at a basic level, aren't these the questions we still ask? And perhaps that's the job for any writer or artist, to keep looking for answers, to make sure those questions continue so that no one ever forgets why they needed to be raised in the first place.”

David Heyman, the producer behind the Harry Potter franchise, had circled around the novel THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS although it was director and screenwriter Mark Herman who optioned the book. When he and Herman met and discovered that they had similar thoughts and sensibilities about the project, they decided to work together. Both of them recognized that a work of fiction set within the context of the Holocaust is controversial territory but they were passionate in their response to the story as a compelling and accessible human drama with a perennially important message. They agreed with Boyne that every attempt to explore the dark heart of the Nazi era in the effort to enlighten new generations so that they neither forget nor repeat what happened is not only valid but also necessary.

"When I read the book, I could immediately imagine a film,” says Mark Herman. "But I could also imagine a film that was going to be very difficult to get off the ground because of the extremely sensitive nature of the subject."

"One of Graham Greene's characters says that hate is a failure of imagination,” says David Heyman. "I firmly believe that and I also believe that the enormity of the Holocaust – the scale of the barbarity, the number of the dead and displaced and exponentially, of the lives destroyed - makes it impossible to get the measure of because the figures are frankly inconceivable. If you are trying to introduce a child to that not-so-distant period in time, those numbers are extremely distancing. I think John Boyne found an exceptionally emotive and effective way to address that by focusing his story on two boys and one family.”

Heyman continues: "I'm drawn to human stories, and this is first and foremost a human tale. Whilst it is a Holocaust story set in 1940s Germany, for me, it's timeless. With all the conflicts going on today, whether in Rwanda, Somalia, Palestine, Israel, Darfur, Zimbabwe or Iraq, this story seems to me to be as relevant today as at any time in history. It's one that resonates with me and has touched thousands of readers around the world. That children have the potential and t

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