Friday, April 20, 2018

The survivor experience times six in Jon Kean's must-see documentary, AFTER AUSCHWITZ

As if the World War II Jewish Holocaust were not in itself awful enough, the continuing realization of what its few survivors (relative to the number of Jews killed) have experienced since their release from the death camps should bring any sentient/caring person up short.

First, there was the antisemitism  that greeted survivors immediately post-release. Then the need by almost everyone, Jews included, to bury the event and never talk about it.

Then, once the talk and the unfurling of its history began to occur -- via news footage, guarded and finally more open conversation, film and television documentaries -- the rise of the "denialists" claiming that the Holocaust never happened. Will the horror and shame never fucking end? Clearly not, as the subjects of this film realize by speaking out about the various genocides occurring before and after their own.

The fine and necessary documentary, AFTER AUSCHWITZ, by Jon Kean (the filmmaker is pictured above, center, with the six subjects of his film, three of whom are now deceased) joins last week's excellent doc, Nana, which addressed the life and history of but a single concentration camp survivor, as a kind of bookend pairing of a particular horror and its aftermath. Each film has much to say and says it well: Nana by showing us the mission of its main character, After Auschwitz via the varied experiences of six quite different women.

Mr. Kean's film bounces back and forth between its thoughtful, intelligent and somewhat positive-though-always-tempered-by-reality women who now have children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren of their own. (In one of the more interesting scenes, one woman examines briefly the great difference in attitude toward the Holocaust between a survivor's children and grandchildren.) We learn these women's history, a bit about their camp experiences, and much more about what happened, as in the doc's title, after the camp.

The post-Auschwitz career of these women spans everything from teacher and social worker to fashion designer and deli-ownership. One even became the nanny to the family of actor Ricardo Montalban. Their stories, while in themselves interesting enough, are made even more so by their ideas, their passion and their exploration of subjects such as the meaning of "home." What one woman has to say about this at the film's finale proves as deeply sad as anything you'll have heard in quite awhile.

One idea gleaned from another doc covered this past week, Lives Well Lived, is how very important one's attitude toward a particular thing can be. The attitudes in this doc run the gamut and seem to account in good part for how these women have responded to life post-Auschwitz.

One thing they all seem to agree upon is the importance of keeping the memory alive of what happened during the Holocaust. No less a personage than General Dwight Eisenhower, who helped liberate one of the camps, insisted that camera footage be taken on the spot in case, years from then, anyone should attempt to say that these things never happened. How smart and how prescient he was!

From Passion River Films and running but 82 minutes, After Auschwitz opened today, Friday, April 20, in New York City at the AMC Empire 25 and will hit a number of other location throughout the country in the weeks to come. Here in South Florida, it opens next Friday, April 27, in the Miami area at AMC's Aventura 24 and Sunset Place 24, and in Fort Lauderdale at The Classic Gateway. The following week, May 4, it will play Boca Raton at the Living Room Theaters, and at the Movies of Delray and Lake Worth, and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Music Hall 3 & Town Center 5. Click here or here and scroll down to view all currently scheduled dates, cities and theaters.

No comments: