Rediscovered Stories: Interview with Behind the Crooked Cross Filmmaker Christine Lalla

 A Q&A by Melissa Gordon


PY: What inspired you to submit to Poor Yorick 

CL: The swastika is such a potent symbol that I wanted as many people as possible to understand its history and why some cultures continue to use the symbol. By sharing knowledge, we widen our outlook and progress our creativity. Spreading positive information serves to educate, and I believe Poor Yorick is a great conduit for knowledge.


PY: What was your motivation behind creating this documentary, Behind the Crooked Cross?

CL: The swastika is the world’s oldest known symbol and is found in almost every ancient and primitive culture all over the world–from the Hindus, Native Americans and Buddhists to the Christians, Etruscans, Celts and Chinese.

In 1920, the Nazis chose the swastika as their emblem, tarnishing 5,000 years of positive meaning for the swastika for all cultures and religions. 

The main aim of the film is to educate people in what this symbol stood for (and in some parts of the world still does) before the Nazis came to power.

In today’s world the graphic symbol is more potent than ever, and the swastika demonstrates that branding was evident thousands of years ago.  Hitler proved that the meaning we attach to a symbol can be of more importance than the symbol itself. 


PY: How did you go about doing research for the film and ultimately deciding who you would interview?  

CL: I had the idea to make this film many years before I started filming. I picked up bits of information here and there, and it percolated in my brain for a few years before I was given the chance to film it.  I think it’s really important for a filmmaker to have time and space away from an idea or project to allow it to seed and grow. Given the delicate subject matter, I was intent to treat the film with sensitivity whilst also producing a balanced film, which would mean I would need to interview people from as many faiths as possible. Judaism would need to be at the center of the film, and, after finding Rabbi Barry Marcus, I sourced representatives from the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. One of the most striking images from the film is Master Lian Sang holding a large red swastika. The image of a monk from a known peace-loving culture holding a seeming symbol of hate is very shocking until he explains the Buddhist relationship to the swastika.

I also didn’t want the film to be solely focused on organized religion and researched the swastika’s existence in the arts as well as everyday life. Finding the swastika etched on crafts at the British Museum was fascinating, and I really enjoyed filming there. My only regret is that within my time frame and budget, I was unable to find a representative from the Native American culture to interview. I found their decision on their usage of the swastika after Hitler came to rule very powerful. In response to Hitler’s regime the Navajo, Papago, Apache, and Hopi people signed a whirling log proclamation in 1940 renouncing the use of the emblem on their blankets, baskets, art objects, sand paintings, and clothing.

I really just make films on subjects I want to know more about. If I weren’t a filmmaker, I would still do all the research, but the resulting knowledge would only be for me. Since I produce films, many people can benefit from my natural curiosity.