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
  • 11 September 2016 (2016-09-11)(TIFF)
  • 30 September 2016 (2016-09-30)(United States)
  • 27 January 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 David Irving, a Holocaust denier, 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 Entertainment One on 27 January 2017.


Deborah Lipstadt is an American professor of Holocaust studies whose speaking engagement is disrupted by David Irving, a British 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 defendant, Lipstadt and her legal team, led by Anthony Julius and 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. The historian Robert van Pelt explains 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; the team reduces 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 insists on focusing the trial on Irving.

Irving tries to discredit 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 slogan "no holes, no Holocaust" dominates the media coverage. Furious, Lipstadt demands 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 a skillful cross-examination and exposes his claims as absurd, while expert testimony from respected scholars such as 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, he cannot be lying as Lipstadt asserted. Gray eventually rules for the defence, however, 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.


Rachel Weisz Montclair Film Festival.jpg
Deborah Lipstadt Remembering the Shoah presentation.jpg
Timothy Spall Press Conference The Party Berlinale 2017 01.jpg
David Irving and his daughter Jessica.jpg
Rachel Weisz plays Deborah Lipstadt and Timothy Spall plays David Irving.


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 82%, based on 170 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. [17] The film had a production budget of $10 million and a worldwide box office of about $9 million. [18]


AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef(s)
AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards 6 February 2017Best Supporting Actor Timothy Spall Nominated [19]
British Academy Film Awards 12 February 2017 Best British Film Gary Foster, David Hare and Russ KrasnoffNominated [20]

Related Research Articles

Holocaust denial is an antisemitic conspiracy theory that asserts that the Nazi genocide of Jews, known as the Holocaust, is a fabrication or exaggeration. Holocaust denial includes making one or more of the following false claims:

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

David John Cawdell Irving is an English author who has written on the military and political history of World War II, especially Nazi Germany. He was found to be a Holocaust denier in a UK court in 2000 as a result of a failed libel case.

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

Rachel Hannah Weisz is a British actress. Known for her roles in independent films and blockbusters, she has received several awards, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Laurence Olivier Award.

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

Deborah Esther Lipstadt is an American historian and diplomat, 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, US.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Hare (playwright)</span> British playwright, screenwriter and director (born 1947)

Sir David Rippon Hare is an English playwright, screenwriter and theatre 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Timothy Spall</span> English actor (born 1957)

Timothy Leonard Spall is an English actor and presenter. Spall gained recognition for his character actor roles on stage and screen. He is known for his collaborations with director Mike Leigh, acting in six of his films: Home Sweet Home (1982), Life is Sweet (1990), Secrets & Lies (1996), Topsy-Turvy (1999), All or Nothing (2002), and Mr. Turner (2014). He was nominated for the BAFTA for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role in Secrets and Lies, and received the Cannes Film Festival Best Actor Award for his portrayal of J. M. W. Turner in Mr. Turner. In 2000, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II. He won the 2024 BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, for his performance as Peter Farquhar in The Sixth Commandment.

Anthony Robert Julius is a British solicitor advocate known for being Diana, Princess of Wales' divorce lawyer and for representing Deborah Lipstadt. He is the deputy chairman at the law firm Mishcon de Reya and honorary solicitor to Foundation for Jewish Heritage. He is a trustee for the Institute of Jewish Studies.

Richard Rampton KC was a British libel lawyer. He was 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Robert Jan van Pelt</span> 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> British actor (born 1990)

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. He has received several awards including two BAFTA Scotland Awards and a Laurence Olivier Award.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Caren Pistorius</span> South African-New Zealand actress

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