September 3, 2010 by Kate Chaplin
After a long debate, I wanted to once and for all answer the question of why the soldiers in “First They Came for” have a large red star on their uniform and on their vehicle.
The original poem says, ” first they came for… “as the writer, trying to take a poem into a film, I knew I had to identify the “they.” I didn’t see them as a flannel or camouflage wearing rag-tag group. I wanted them to be intimidating, scary, clean, and organized. Above all they needed to be an unstoppable force.
Because the soldiers in the film are never explained, they needed to be visually strong right off the bat. They needed a simple iconic symbol to show they were an organized unit of some kind.
Something easy to see from afar as some of the shots were designed to see the soldiers from a distance.
My husband showed me Rage Against the Machine album “Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium.” RATM uses the image of a red star in its concerts, music videos, and marketing. I thought the image was simple, interesting, and easy to duplicate (as I’m not a graphic designer).
From there I did research the red star. The five-pointed red star appears on both sides of the political fields as well as iconic marketing campaigns.
- The five-pointed red star is a symbol of Communism
- The five-pointed red star is the Macy’s Department Store Logo
- The five-pointed red star is the symbol of the Socialism
- The five-pointed red star is the Heineken Logo
- A five-pointed star represents the five continents
- A five-pointed star represents a workers hand
- A red star with a yellow outline was on the flag of the Soviet Union
- A white star with a red circle around it was the logo for Texaco
- Yugoslavia (my great- grandparents birth home) adopted a red star on their flag as early as 1945
- China’s flag has five, five-pointed yellow stars on a red background
- According to Wikipedia the red star has been banned in some countries
- Converse uses many colored five-pointed stars (including red) on their shoes
- ELZN uses the red star on a black background to declare war on the Mexican state
- “Red Star” was a superhero of the Teen Titans in the 1990’s and spoke Russian and English
- The U.S Army has been using, and is still using to this day, a five-pointed white star
- Marines in WW1 wore a patch with a red shield and a white star in the center.
The red star used in the film was not to be defined to a particular group or organization, it was meant to be iconic, easy to see, and memorable. For an image to be iconic, it needs to have been established in the universal consciousness. From my research, a red star fit the bill; plus had a variety of meanings and history behind it, bringing another layer to the film.
Over the years viewers of the film accuse me of being anti-communist. Which startles me as I made the film to promote human rights for all beings. The original poem begins with “first they came for the communists” why would I want to adapt a poem and take in into modern day and disgrace a group that was perused against? Doing that would be an insult to the writer of the original poem, Reverend Martin Neimoller.
I hope this sheds some light on why I chose the soldiers to wear a red star in the film. I hope people continue to watch the film and become inspired.