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Panelists Discuss Legacy of WWII "Monuments Men"

The Monuments Men Discussion
Moderator Diane McWhorter, author Robert M. Edsel, and fellow Lucia Allais take the stage at the IOP on Monday night. The panelists discussed the new film, "The Monuments Men" with actor Matt Damon, who was participated via Skype on a separate screen.

A day before the world premiere of “The Monuments Men” starring Matt P. Damon '88-'92, Robert M. Edsel, author of the New York Times bestseller on which the movie is based, spoke at the Institute of Politics about the historical legacy and implications of the story behind the novel and film. Damon joined the event via a live Skype feed.

“The Monuments Men” tells the true story of a group of museum directors, curators, art historians, and artists who helped find pieces of art stolen by the Nazis during World War II. According to Edsel, the upcoming movie is a call to action to recognize the vital role that art plays in society.

“We have to show respect for the cultural preferences of others,” he said.

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The panel, which was the IOP’s first John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum event for the spring semester, was moderated by Joan Shorenstein fellow Diane McWhorter and also featured Lucia Allais, a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

During the event, Edsel recalled that when he first heard about the story of “The Monuments Men” several years ago, he thought it was the most exciting piece of history he had ever heard.

“I think when you see the film many people will feel that way too,” he said at the event, which was livestreamed to audiences at the University of Southern California, Arizona State University, and the University of Texas at Austin, as part of the IOP’s national campaign.

Edsel said that he is excited that the story of “The Monuments Men” will now finally be heard, because it has received far less media attention than deserved over the last half century. The movie, which was directed by and also stars George Clooney, has already received praise from film critics.

Damon agreed that audiences need to know and learn more about the Monuments Men.

“[This story] is something that all of us should have learned about,” he said.

“For all you women who have gone to all these World War II movies with us guys, this is your movie,” Edsel added.

Several students who were present at the event had already seen information about the upcoming movie and came to learn more.

“I saw the trailers for the movie and I was really interested. It’s a topic that I personally didn’t know about,” Yesenia L. Jimenez ’17 said.

“I’m really excited to go see the movie, to see the portrayal of it. It’s definitely something that everyone should know about,” she added.

—Staff writer Forrest K. Lewis can be reached at forrest.lewis@thecrimson.com.

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