VIFF 2016: Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt


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      This provocative doc spends more time on the philosopher’s actual writing than on the controversy it caused, although that’s there too.

      Scholars arrayed for or against her during these well-assembled two hours paint a picture, supported by a lot of archival material, that goes well beyond her “banality of evil” coverage of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann’s 1961 trial. Her refusal to limit the genocide to its anti-Semitic roots angered Israelis and many survivors, who didn’t always want to acknowledge her more wide-sweeping views on the mutable nature of fascism. Arendt’s focus on the demonization of refugees as a precursor to genocide proved prescient, and the film makes the case that exile allows some thinkers to see the bigger picture, even as they’re forced to sacrifice their own notion of home.