When screenwriter Clayton Frohman first showed a newspaper obituary about a wartime Jewish resistance fighter to Blood Diamond director Edward Zwick, the Oscar-winning filmmaker was resistant himself.

“I said, ‘the holocaust? What more could we possibly have to add to this subject?’” explained Zwick during a recent stop in Toronto. After reading the article however, he soon discovered a biography about said refugee and “realized that indeed there was something — a pretty glaring omission — which had to do with resistance; that the monolithic understanding that Jews had been entirely passive (during the war) was incorrect.”

With Defiance — in theatres next Friday — Zwick is now behind the stunning true story of Tuvia Bielski (starring Daniel Craig — taking a break from James Bond), the Jewish resistance fighter who led over a thousand refugees through a Belarus forest battling German soldiers, starvation and bitter winters. For Zwick, the story he once resisted became an ongoing struggle to make.

“You’re living so deeply inside this deconstructed reality of making a movie which is — there’s this story and you’ve read it and done all your research and then in order to create it, you’ve broken it down into such composite parts as to the transportation of the lumber to the set and the rates of the airfares of the (actors),” said Zwick, admitting that the drawn-out process often causes one to forget the initial inspiration of such stories.

“When it comes back together and is made whole, only then do its implications become manifest.”

When the director presented a private screening for some of the survivors and ancestors of the actual event, it became clear just how important this simple obituary-originated story actually was for Zwick to tell.

“It was very interesting to show them the film,” said Zwick. “A 12-year-old or a 14-year-old’s memory of an event like this is obviously particular and I think for them its been an opportunity to not just express something but to have it shaped in some way.”

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