Triumph of the Spirit


A Greek Olympic boxer finds himself in Auschwitz and literally fighting for his life, and the lives of what family he has left, for the amusement of the Nazi captors. The movie is based on a real-life story.

EJO's Role

Edward James Olmos in Triumph of the Spirit

Edward James Olmos plays the Gypsy, a man who also does what he must to survive and keep his family alive.

The Numbers

Triumph of the Spirit premiered in Los Angeles and New York on December 8, 1989, then went into limited release nationwide on February 2, 1990.

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  • Triumph of the Spirit marks the fourth time Edward James Olmos worked with director Robert M. Young
  • According to the New York Times, Edward James Olmos prepared for his role in Triumph of the Spirit "by searching out surviving families of gypsy victims of the camps."
  • Triumph of the Spirit was the first major feature film to be shot at Auschwitz.


My Take

Like all Holocaust films, Triumph of the Spirit is not easy for me to watch. I am always unsettled by how utterly depraved human beings can be and the horrors the Nazi's committed are just...

Even still, these sorts of movies should be made and watched. The strength it took and the things people had to do to survive are both inspiring and frightening. They are a close study of human nature at its worst and best and everything in between.

Willem Dafoe, whom I considered an acquired taste, is excellent here, as disciplined in his acting as an Olympic boxer would be in the ring. Olmos gives a layered performance, his part providing him chances to display his versatility as actor and entertainer.

Critics have stated the film is overly melodramatic, particularly the score, and I'd have to agree on the latter, but overall it is a movie that I'm proud to have in my film library. I pull it out when I need a reminder that though Nazi Germany no longer exists to commit atrocities, there are places around the world where people are daily fighting for survival against overwhelming odds and who desperately need the help of a largely self-absorbed world.

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EJO began his entertainment career as lead singer of a band called Pacific Ocean.


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