Denial (2016 film)

Last updated

Denial (2016 film).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mick Jackson
Screenplay by David Hare
Based onHistory on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier
by Deborah Lipstadt
Produced by
  • Gary Foster
  • Russ Krasnoff
Cinematography Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by Justine Wright
Music by Howard Shore
Distributed by
Release dates
  • September 11, 2016 (2016-09-11)(TIFF)
  • September 30, 2016 (2016-09-30)(United States)
  • January 27, 2017 (2017-01-27)(United Kingdom)
Running time
110 minutes [1]
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$10 million [2]
Box office$9.2 million [3]

Denial is a 2016 biographical film directed by Mick Jackson and written by David Hare, based on Deborah Lipstadt's 2005 book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier. It dramatises the Irving v Penguin Books Ltd case, in which Lipstadt, a Holocaust scholar, was sued by Holocaust denier David Irving for libel. It stars Rachel Weisz, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Spall, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius and Alex Jennings.


Denial premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September 2016. [4] It was theatrically released in the United States by Bleecker Street on 30 September 2016, [5] and in the United Kingdom by StudioCanal and Entertainment One on 27 January 2017.


Deborah Lipstadt is an American professor of Holocaust studies whose speaking engagement is disrupted by David Irving, a writer on Nazi Germany. He files a libel lawsuit in the United Kingdom against Lipstadt and her publisher for declaring him a Holocaust denier in her books. As the burden of proof in UK libel cases lies with the accused, Lipstadt and her legal team, led by solicitor Anthony Julius and barrister Richard Rampton, must prove that Irving lied about the Holocaust.

To prepare their defence, Lipstadt and Rampton tour the site of the former Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland along with Professor Robert van Pelt who explains about the operation of the gas chambers, while the research team subpoenas Irving's extensive personal diaries. Lipstadt is annoyed by Rampton's apparently disrespectful questions on the subject, and frustrated when the team minimized her involvement in the case, arguing that she harms its chances of success. Members of the British Jewish community plead with her to settle out of court to avoid creating publicity for Irving. However, her team has a promising start when they persuade Irving, by appealing to his ego, to agree to a trial by judge instead of a jury, which he could have manipulated to his advantage.

Irving conducts his own legal representation, facing Lipstadt's legal team. Irving endeavours to twist the presented evidence for the defence. Lipstadt is approached by a Holocaust survivor who pleads for the chance to testify, but Lipstadt's legal team insisted on focusing the trial on Irving.

Irving tries to discredit Professor van Pelt's evidence for the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz, claiming there were no holes on the roof for the Zyklon B gas crystals to be introduced. His soundbite "no holes, no holocaust" dominated the media coverage. Furious, Lipstadt demanded that she and the Holocaust survivors be allowed to take the stand. Julius angrily counters that Irving would only humiliate and exploit a survivor on cross-examination, as he has in the past. Rampton visits Lipstadt at her home to explain his approach and earns her trust. In court, he subjects Irving to skillful cross-examination and exposes his claims as absurd, while expert testimony from respected scholars like Richard J. Evans expose the distortions in Irving's writings.

As the trial concludes, the judge, Charles Gray, worries the defence by suggesting that, if Irving honestly believes his own claims, then he cannot be lying as Lipstadt asserted. However, Gray eventually rules for the defence, convinced of the truth of Lipstadt's portrayal of Irving as deceitful. Lipstadt is hailed for her dignified demeanour, while her legal team reminds her that, despite her silence during the trial, it was her writing that countered Irving's lies and provided the basis for the victory. At a press conference, Lipstadt praises her lawyers for their strategy.



In April 2015, Hilary Swank and Tom Wilkinson were selected to star in the film, based on the book History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier by Deborah Lipstadt, with Mick Jackson directing, and Gary Foster and Russ Krasnoff producing under their Krasnoff/Foster Entertainment banner with Shoebox Films. [6] Participant Media and BBC Films co-financed. [7] In November 2015, Rachel Weisz replaced Swank, and Timothy Spall joined the cast, with Bleecker Street distributing the film. [8] In December 2015, Andrew Scott, Jack Lowden, Caren Pistorius, Alex Jennings, and Harriet Walter joined the cast. [9] Howard Shore composed the film's score. [10]

Principal photography began in December 2015 and concluded by the end of January 2016. [11] Denial was filmed in London and at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Poland. [12]


The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 11 September 2016. [13] The film was released in the United States in a limited release on 30 September 2016, [14] and in the United Kingdom on 27 January 2017. [15]


Critical reception

Denial received positive reviews from critics. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83%, based on 167 reviews, with an average grade of 6.80/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "If Denial doesn't quite do its incredible story complete justice, it comes close enough to offer a satisfying, impactful drama – and another powerful performance from Rachel Weisz." [16] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 63 out of 100, based on 34 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [17]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef(s)
AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards 6 February 2017Best Supporting Actor Timothy Spall Nominated [18]
British Academy Film Awards 12 February 2017 Best British Film Gary Foster, David Hare and Russ KrasnoffNominated [19]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Holocaust denial</span> Denial of the genocide of Jews in World War II

Holocaust denial is a form of genocide denial drawing on antisemitic conspiracy theories that asserts that the Nazi genocide of Jews, known as the Holocaust, is a myth, fabrication, or exaggeration. Holocaust deniers make one or more of the following false statements:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Irving</span> British author and Holocaust denier

David John Cawdell Irving is an English author and Holocaust denier who has written on the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany. His works include The Destruction of Dresden (1963), Hitler's War (1977), Churchill's War (1987) and Goebbels: Mastermind of the Third Reich (1996). In his works, he argued that Adolf Hitler did not know of the extermination of Jews, or, if he did, he opposed it. Though Irving's negationist claims and views of German war crimes in World War II were never taken seriously by mainstream historians, he was once recognised for his knowledge of Nazi Germany and his ability to unearth new historical documents.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rachel Weisz</span> English actress (born c. 1970)

Rachel Hannah Weisz is an English actress. She is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Laurence Olivier Award, a Critics' Choice Award and a BAFTA Award.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Deborah Lipstadt</span> American Holocaust historian (born 1947)

Deborah Esther Lipstadt is an American historian, best known as author of the books Denying the Holocaust (1993), History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier (2005), The Eichmann Trial (2011), and Antisemitism: Here and Now (2019). She has served as the United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism since May 3, 2022. Since 1993 she has been the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, United States.

David Hare (playwright) British playwright, screenwriter and theatre and film director

Sir David Hare is an English playwright, screenwriter and theatre and film director. Best known for his stage work, Hare has also enjoyed great success with films, receiving two Academy Award nominations for Best Adapted Screenplay for writing The Hoursin 2002, based on the novel written by Michael Cunningham, and The Readerin 2008, based on the novel of the same name written by Bernhard Schlink.

Timothy Spall English actor

Timothy Leonard Spall is an English actor and presenter. He became a household name in the UK after appearing as Barry Spencer Taylor in the 1983 ITV comedy-drama series Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

Michèle Suzanne Renouf is an Australian-born British political activist. An article in The Telegraph in February 2009 described her as a "one-time actress" and "former model and beauty queen" who since the late 1990s "has attended and spoken at Holocaust 'revisionist' conferences and written papers on the subject".

Anthony Robert Julius is a British solicitor advocate and academic, known for being Diana, Princess of Wales' divorce lawyer and for representing Deborah Lipstadt. He is a partner at the law firm Mishcon de Reya.

Richard Rampton QC is a British libel lawyer. He has been involved in several high-profile cases including Irving v. Penguin Books and Lipstadt, where he defended Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books against David Irving.

Sir Charles Antony St John Gray was a British barrister and judge, who specialised in intellectual property, copyright, privacy and defamation cases. As a judge, he presided over the trial of David Irving's libel lawsuit against Professor Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books over claims that Irving was a Holocaust denier; Gray delivered a 349 pages long judgment against Irving.

Robert Jan van Pelt Dutch historian

Robert Jan van Pelt is a Dutch author, architectural historian, professor at the University of Waterloo and a Holocaust scholar. One of the world's leading experts on Auschwitz, he regularly speaks on Holocaust related topics, through which he has come to address Holocaust denial. He was an expert witness in Deborah Lipstadt's successful defence in the civil libel suit brought against her by British author and Holocaust denier David Irving in 1996.

<i>Denying the Holocaust</i> 1993 book by Deborah Lipstadt

Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory is a 1993 book by the historian Deborah Lipstadt, in which the author discusses the Holocaust denial movement. Lipstadt named British writer David Irving as a Holocaust denier, leading him to sue her unsuccessfully for libel. She gives a detailed explanation of how people came to deny the Holocaust or claim that it was vastly exaggerated by the Jews.

<i>Irving v Penguin Books Ltd</i> Case in English law against American author Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books

David Irving v Penguin Books and Deborah Lipstadt is a case in English law against American historian Deborah Lipstadt and her British publisher Penguin Books, filed in the High Court of Justice by the British author David Irving in 1996, asserting that Lipstadt had libelled him in her 1993 book Denying the Holocaust. The court ruled that Irving's claim of libel relating to Holocaust denial was not valid under English defamation law because Lipstadt's claim that he had deliberately distorted evidence had been shown to be substantially true. English libel law puts the burden of proof on the defence, meaning that it was up to Lipstadt and her publisher to prove that her claims of Irving's deliberate misrepresentation of evidence to conform to his ideological viewpoints were substantially true.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jack Lowden</span> Scottish actor

Jack Andrew Lowden is a Scottish actor. Following a four-year stage career, his first major international onscreen success was in the 2016 BBC miniseries War & Peace, which led to starring roles in feature films.

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Caren Pistorius South African-born New Zealand actress

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