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Heir to an Execution (2004)

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A filmmaker explores the lives and deaths of her grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as spies in 1953.


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Credited cast:
Ivy Meeropol ...
Michael Meeropol ...
Robert Meeropol ...
Ethel Rosenberg ...
Herself (archive footage)
Julius Rosenberg ...
Himself (archive footage)


A filmmaker explores the lives and deaths of her grandparents, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as spies in 1953.

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June 2004 (USA)  »

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A Family's Story.
30 June 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

7/10 This is a pretty good documentary, directed by the Rosenberg's blood granddaughter Ivy Meeropol, it covers in more detail the relationship the trial and execution has had on the family, than on the the actual trial and evidence. It is clear and objectively shown that indeed it has had an arrant multigenerational effect and most likely will continue with the director's children. However, important in the film was the revelation of information contained in the 1995 opening of classified government documents (The Venona Papers) which pretty much proves Julius' guilt (guilty of passing secrets, but nothing supposedly as serious as atomic info) and exonerates Ethel. This is presented as a surprise in the film, although this information was revealed nearly a decade before the film had been made. We spend half the film getting to this point, whereas the film would've been much more effective and in-depth if it would've started off at this point. I only say this 'cause the degree to which the guilt, or degree of guilt affects this family's identity, is highly relevant and the major theme of the documentary. This, and Morton Sobell's incomplete answers to the nature of their guilt (he was their co-defendant!!) made the film seem a little more biased than it had to be. The film also in a way martyrizes the Rosenbergs, which is fine if they were innocent, but a sad and unavoidable manipulation if not. Overall, this is slightly nitpickish on my part and anyone interested in this era of history will not be disappointed.

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