The names Julius and Ethel Rosenberg bring on a sweeping sensation of treason. They have become the poster-children for anti-American hatred and fear of foreign ideology. But to some, the names mean mother and father; grandmother and grandfather.
I must admit, before I saw this film I didn't even know the Rosenbergs had children. This is left out of history lessons since, after all, what did that have to do with anything? Heir to an Execution, a sensitive and thoughtful documentary from Rosenberg granddaughter Ivy Meeropol, sheds light into a shadowy area of communist spies and family tightness.
Meeropol's film begins questioning the famed Rosenberg's death sentences by interviewing old friends and socialist peers. A door is opened into their world in a way I had never seen. Hated so fiercely by the rest of America, these revolutionaries have found their way from prisons to retirement homes.
What is far more interesting, however, is what comes next. As Meeropol tracks her grandparents' lives to the electric chair the question of her father and uncle arise. What exactly did happen to them during the chaos? And more importantly, what was to be done with them after the inevitable? Political documentaries are sometimes dry and are often as subtle as a man with a stick pointing at an easel. Heir to an Execution is different. Meeropol raises doubts to at least part of the Rosenberg trial, if not all of it, while at the same time documenting the life of a wonderful man, her father. In the end we don't know which is more important, the Rosenberg injustice or the chronicle of a distinguished life whose path you would not expect winding up here. **** out of ****
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