Janusz Korczak was the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit, a Polish-Jewish educator, children’s author, pediatrician, and founder/director of an orphanage for Jewish children in Warsaw. When the Nazis invaded Poland Korczak was forced to move the orphanage and its 200 children into the Warsaw Ghetto. Due to his fame he was offered several chances to escape but chose to remain with the children and die with them when they were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp. The screenplay is by Agnieszka Holland, writer and director of Europa Europa, another Holocaust related film also released in 1990. The cinematography is by Robby Müller who also shot Down by Law and Paris, Texas. The choice to use B&W film lends a documentary aspect and helps to blend in a few snippets of newsreel footage from the Warsaw Ghetto. It may also be what inspired Steven Spielberg to shoot Schindler’s List (1993) in B&W. He called Korczak “one of the most important pictures about the Holocaust.” I would say the film is more about Korczak than the Holocaust. I don’t think it was the writer’s and director Andrzej Wajda’s intention to remind us of the horrors of the Holocaust and evoke sympathy with a tearjerker. It is an homage to a man who did the right thing, who would not allow a dehumanizing situation to rob him or his charges of their dignity, and who faced death without fear and sought to teach others to do the same. His courage is a lesson for all of us and for all time and his story should be known to everyone.
Korczak at imdb.
As of November, 2015 Korczak is available on DVD and online at Amazon.com.