Films 2007


WHITE FLAG, PLAYING WITH THE ENEMY

Switzerland, 2005
Dir: Izzy Abrahami, Erga Netz
Prod: Abrahami-Netz TV Productions, 58´
Distr: info@antv.nl

Through the organisation ”Windows for Peace” musicians from Tel Aviv in Israel and the refugee camps in the Gaza Strip come together. Even if the band members share neither culture nor language or stand on the same side of a conflict, which all too often is described as unsolvable, they still want to show that communication and friendship can be borderless. So it came to be that something which was planned as a one-time event was instead developed into the music group “White Flag”. Their message is clear and strong: against violence, for peace, freedom, tolerance, and beyond borders. A few months later however, in the year 2000, the Intifada breaks out and it makes it impossible for the band members to come together again.
Five years pass but a Swiss producer gets word of the group and decides to resurrect the music project which had never really died of natural causes—this time they re-unite on neutral Swiss ground.


THE LONG SHADOW OF MEMORY

Sweden, 2006
Dir: Håkan Pieniowski, Tadeusz Nowakowski, 17´
Prod: Håkan Pieniowski Film & Reportage, Polonica Media
Distr: www.polonica.se

Around 3,000 Poles arrived with the ”white buses” to Sweden after the end of the Second World War. They bore with them traumas, memories, and experiences which exceeded Swedish norms. The background of the people in this film have never been fully shared or integrated with Swedish reality. This has characterized their existences and their views of life, as well as those of their children, who on one hand, in Sweden, have come to live in an obvious and safe, materially stable world, but on the other hand, in a darker, more elusive parallel world which they have been sought to understand.


THEY RAN OUT OF GAS

Poland, 2004
Dir: Leszek Surma
Prod: TVP S.A. Lublin, 11´
Distr: leszeksurma@poczta.onet.pl

Halina Birenbaum is 13 years old when she enters the gas chamber with her mother. She looks up at the showerheads out of which she knows the gas will come, but it does not happen. Minute after minute, hour after hour she waits for the last moment of her life, but it does not occur. That night they ran out of gas in the gas chamber at Auschwitz.
During a return visit to the camp she tells us of the time she spent there and of that horrible night, but also about the thoughts she had about death. Is death something to be scared of after all?


HOLY WARRIORS

Russia/USA 2006
Dir: Marianna Yarovskaya, 30´
Prod: Marianna Yarovskaya, Olesya Bondareva
Distr: www.mayfilms.com

Hard times such as times of conflict and war are often accompanied by questions about the soul and the relationship between religion and war. The film’s participants have either voluntary or involuntary experience of war; this has affected their opinions, attitudes, and their ongoing lives. Among the participants in the film is Father Nicolas who was a soldier in Afghanistan and in two wars in Chechnya. He says that atheism ends where matters of life and death begin. For him, awakening from a clinical death lead to his decision to become a priest. Another life we encounter is that of the mother of a Russian solider. Her son was canonized after he was executed in Chechnya for refusing to renounce his faith. She herself has been a member of the Communist Party for 25 years, and now she is trying to reconcile with her son’s fate. Sergei Birk, who was once a member of the Soviet Special Forces recounts that his meeting with a mullah led him to the insight that most answers to the questions of life are to be found in the Koran. But at the same time as he is expressing this, he knows that it is in his nature to be a sniper.


THE PORTRAITIST

Poland, 2005
Dir: Irek Dobrowolski
Prod: Anna Dobrowolska, 52´
Distr: +48 22 840 63 22, +48 22 841 08 72, info@rekontrplan.pl

Wilhelm Brasse’s skills as a photographer led to him being forced, as a concentration camp prisoner in Auschwitz, to document the whims of the Gestapo. In front of the portrait photographer’s lens emaciated, abused, and terror-stricken faces were placed; this left indelible impressions on Wilhelm’s retinas. From 1940 until the evacuation of the camp in 1945 he took thousands of pictures. Even the most feared made use of his services, Dr. Mengele himself looks almost human in the most favourable lighting conditions and the head of the Gestapo at Auschwitz has been immortalized with soft facial lines.
Thanks to Wilhelm Brasse’s courage and skill, cruelty which goes beyond all words is well-documented for future generations. He himself could not continue with his profession after his experiences at Auschwitz.


SHALOM ASMARA

Italy, 2004
Dir: Marco Mensa, Marco Cavallorin
Prod: Ethnos Production, Elisa Mereghetti, 31´
Distr: info@ethnosfilm.com

At the end of the 1800’s many Jews emigrated from the southern parts of the Arabian Peninsula to settle along Africa’s Red Sea coast. At the same point in time Jews also came from the north, from the Mediterranean region through the newly-opened Suez Canal. They settled primarily in Asmara, then the capital of Eritrea. The principle figure in “Shalom Asmara” was born in that city. We follow him as he returns to his birthplace to put together the puzzle pieces surrounding his and his parents’ past. He is met by an Asmara in the process of change, but at the same time a city where the cultural and religious crucible, as he remembers it before the Second World War, nonetheless lives on through tolerant people and a multifarious cultural and religious life—Jewish society is beginning to be strengthened once again. Through a quiet story-telling form and a number of archival images, a beautiful city slowly emerges and along side it some interesting history from a part of the world which often finds itself outside the Western medias’ radius.


CHLOPAK I DZIEWCZYNA / A BOY AND A GIRL

Poland, 2005
Dir: Slawomir Koehler
Prod: Media kontakt, 52´
Distr: kontakt@ant.pl


Somehow a boy and a girl survive the deadly machinery which was put in motion in Warsaw during the Second World War’s persecution of the Jews. Through their stories, now returning as two elderly people, the Warsaw of that time becomes present-day. With a child’s eye perspective and constantly running legs we move around the city and get close to people and life situations within and outside the Warsaw Ghetto, as well as its later liquidation.


QUESTIONS TOWARDS GOD

Russia, 2006
Dir: Alexander Andreev
Prod: Maria Sementsova, 28´

Distr: parfilm@mail.ru

What is evil? What is goodness? What is conscience? How was it that Hitler managed to control so many Germans’ consciences during the Second World War, while others resisted in various ways? In dozens of cities all over Germany Jews were hidden behind secret doors, in basements and in attics. The creativity that was used to find these hidden people were enormous but so too was the many ways of hiding. In Berlin 2,000 Jews lives were spared when ordinary, often simple, Germans risked their own lives for the possibility of being able to save another human being. In Alexander Andreev’s film some of these quiet German everyday heroes are put in focus.


FRONT LINES: LAOS

England, 2005
Dir: Ruhi Hamid, 22´
Prod. Ruhi Hamid
Distr: ruhihamid2005@yahoo.com, lbmprod@ukonline.co.uk;
dolly.burles@bbc.co.uk

After the end of the Vietnam War, the Laotian Hmong rebels, who fought on the side of the Americans, were forced to flee from the Laotian communist government’s pursuits. They fled up into the mountains and ever since then they and their families have found themselves in constant flight. The director Ruhi Hamid travels into Laos as an ordinary tourist; she does this to avoid revealing that the camera that she is carrying is intending to document the Hmong people. To reveal such a fact would put her life in dire danger. After three days of risky walking she reaches their settlement. She is met by a people who live under horrible conditions—constantly on the move, seeking to escape the government soldiers’ bullets. Children and adults all bear the marks of shots, there are no opportunities for health care and they live thus constantly on the edge of famine. Forgotten by a political interest that has moved on, they nonetheless are hoping that someone sometime will save them from their fate.
Ruhi Hamid is the first journalist to have filmed these people. The result of her film is a gripping account and an exceptional piece of journalistic work but also, in a broader context, a grim and very powerful reflection of one of the many forgotten sides of a power politics that has moved on.


THE CHILDREN OF LENINGRADSKY

Poland, 2005
Dir: Hanna Polak, Andrzej Celinski, 35´
Distr: hannapolak@cinematographer.pl

In and around the Leningradsky train station in contemporary Moscow many homeless children and adolescents live. In sewers, cardboard boxes, dumpsters, or under the open sky they attempt to create some kind of substitute for the human life that they have missed out on. Some of them have fled horrible home situations; others have been abandoned. Now they are forced to live in an existence characterized by the laws of the street, drug abuse, prostitution, and a constant sense of missing their parents – or perhaps, more correctly, the idea of them. Because, for some of them the street is at any rate a much better alternative than the homes they once fled.
At the time of the film’s creation there were about 30,000 homeless children living in Moscow, according to an estimate by the Russian authorities.
The problem is enormous in the whole of Russia, and the director, Hanna Polak, has now gotten involved in the starting of a fund, “The Children of Leningradsky Fund”, which purpose is to help as many children as possible in the long-term.


IT DOESN’T PAY TO CRY

Sweden, 2005
Dir: Håkan Pieniowski
Prod: Håkan Pieniowski Film, Polonica Media, 12´
Distr: www.polonica.se

Stella Tjajkowski lives in Stockholm, she is a former professor and concert pianist but she also belongs to the remnant Jews who survived the mass exterminations during the Second World War. Still today Stella avoids everyday events because it might remind her of Auschwitz, whose constant selections and gas chambers she miraculously survived. In her apartment she shares her experiences from the Second World War but she prefers not to burden those around her with her memories, although, she lets us know of an ongoing film of all her old memories that is constantly playing within her mind, from it she has never been able to escape.


TELL ME, WHY?

Poland, 2006
Dir: Malgorzata Imielska
Prod: Studio Kalejdoskop & TVP SA, 48´
Distr: TVP SA, gosia@ant.pl

Alongside the passing of time certain things and events tend to grow softer while others become even more jagged and sharp. “Tell Me, Why?” is a love story between two people who met in one of modern history’s worse imaginable moments. Nevertheless, Jurek and Stella found an unusually strong connection which helped them to survive the persecutions of the Jews during the Second World War. At the end of the war, however, the memories of the horrors came between them—while Jurek longed to reunite with Stella, she chose to try to forget and move on. Even now, Jurek cannot understand how, at the end of the war, she could run off with a Polish officer and flee to a life in the USA without a single word of explanation. The only thing he asks is that she at least tells him why she didn’t give their love a chance.


TRACES

Finland, 2006
Dir: Mauri Pasanen & Irina Z. 32´
Distr: info@traces.tv
, mauri.pasanen@skynet.be

When Irina was growing up in Moscow, her Jewish background was never discussed. She knew that her grandfather had come to Moscow before the war and that his entire family had been annihilated in the Polish city of Ciechocinek, but she did not know much more. One day she and Mauri Pasanen, the film’s director, decided to find out what happened to her relatives. Eventually, the traces lead to reward.


SAVING CHILDREN

Israel, 2005
Dir: Nimrod Shanit
Prod: Gil Roeh, 53´
Distr: Zed Films tel: +972-3-5622252, +972-50-5400532, fax: +972-3-5622262

”Saving Children” is a project attempting to build a bridge over the now infamous barrier between Israel and Palestine. By transporting sick Palestinian children over the border to Israel, to the advanced health care they cannot be offered on Palestinian soil, the initiator, Manuela Dvirim, a Jewish woman, is hoping that medical help can build bridges between the two sides and create peace in the region – at any rate as a future prospect. Around this controversial project, life histories from both sides of the border are interwoven and through this we learn about, on the one hand, those active within the project—what drives them—and on the other hand those helped by the project. Among others we get to know a Palestinian mother and her son who is suffering from a heart disease. Their home has been shattered to pieces by the Israeli army and now they are on their way to look for help in the only hospital where they have the possibility of finding it – on Israeli soil. The film is presented by Richard Gere.


TEL AVIV

USA, 2004
Dir: Richard Goldgewicht
Prod: Jeremy Goldscheider, Kihou Production, 10´
Distr: tel: 310 487 31 02, kihou@aol.com, jeremy@esonicmusic.com

A Jewish man on his way to Tel Aviv is forced to walk along a desolate country road when his car breaks down. As the last of his strength begins to fail him, he is picked up by a passing car full of Arabs. The Jewish man and the Arabs are representatives of two different sides of a conflict, but in a charged situation in which fear and mistrust can easily take the upper hand feelings are replaced by trust in one another which in turn results in the two sides bypassing each other’s inner barriers.


THE CASE OF RAOUL WALLENBERG

Germany, 2005
Dir: Klaus Dexel
Prod: Behert & Dexel Filmproduktion, 89´
Distr: klaus.dexel@bechert-dexeltv.de

Parts of Raoul Wallenberg’s life and destiny are even today a mystery and answers are still being sought. Although, entirely uncontested is that he in 1944 travelled to Budapest as a secretary to the Swedish legation with an assignment to save a few hundred Hungarian Jews, with connections to Sweden, from the Nazis. From the very outset, however, it was clear to him that he would strive to save as many lives as possible. In one year’s time Raoul Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of lives by issuing so-called “passports of protection” but also through urgent and hard diplomatic work. Throughout the film we follow Raoul Wallenberg’s history from his youth, when his relation to the Wallenberg family is discussed, through his time in Budapest, up to the ever more invisible trails surrounding his arrest at the request of the Soviet government in 1945. We also learn more about his time in the Lubjanka Prison in Moscow where, according to official Soviet sources, he died in 1947. Under whose commission was he acting? Why was he arrested? What happened to him after his arrest?
These are some of the questions brought up in the film.


EWA R.

Poland 2006
Regi/Dir: Andrzej Bart, 24´
Prod: Grupa Filmowa Fargo, Łódź
Distr: abart@instite.pl


The film shows the complicated relationships between the world famous and adored concert pianist Arthur Rubinstein and his children. During his time, Arthur Rubinstein was one of the world’s most celebrated interpreters of Chopin. He survived the holocaust by fleeing to the United States. After the war he became acquainted with Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein and Thomas Mann. His daughter Ewa relates in a true and profound way the price that the family paid for their father’s brilliance.

The film is only shown in its Polish language version. After film there will be a discussion with the director Andrzej Bart who is also one of Poland’s most important authors.


THE STAGE

Israel, 2005
Dir: Peter Mostovoy
Prod: Peter Mostovoy, 54´
Distr: Tel/Fax 972-3-964 46 68, mob 972-52-682 95 76, e-mail: mostovoy@012.net.il

About 1 million Russian Jews have emigrated from Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union. A number of them have started new lives in Israel. At an audition for a cabaret, various talents meet–some proud, others long since hidden away or grown uncertain, but love of the stage is the common denominator. Through a warmly impertinent and affectionate camera lens, Peter Mostovoy documents much more than the actual selection process.


ROMA KUPA / THE ROMANY CUP

Slovakia, 2005
Dir: Tomás Hucko, 22´
Distr: Visual Media Tomás Hucko, tel: +421 2 44 25 11 00,
fax: +421 2 44 25 41 39, e-mail: hucko@naex.sk

A warm and humorous depiction of local soccer clubs as we all know them. Though far from the bright lights of the world stadiums, those involved lack neither burning engagement nor competitive instinct, but the main purpose, which they all agree on, is that they should enjoy themselves—both on and off the soccer field.
In southern Slovakia three Romany football teams compete in their own local tournament, they are all in agreement that they are there to play friendly matches; but, the opinions about what that should involve are divided, to say the least.


WHEN WEEPING LAUGHS

Czech Republic, 2004
Dir: Jaroslav Hovorka
Prod: Czech Television, 28´
Distr: velky.vuz@czech-tv.cz

Diverse groups of people from all over Europe were taken to the work camp Theresienstadt. Among these were a number of that time period’s elite within literature, music, and art. While 200 of the camp’s inhabitants were dying each day and the prisoners were living under repulsive conditions, the creation of all forms of art was permitted. This could be considered a paradox, but one which later showed itself to be a strategic move on the part of Hitler’s Germans. In a situation in which human beings were deprived of precisely their humanity and excluded from the normalcy of ordinary society, spiritual expression became necessary to maintain integrity.
“Living face to face with death meant that the inner world needed another dimension,” recounts one of Theresienstadt’s many theatre actors, standing in one of the attics where theatre performances once took place.


COFFEE BEANS FOR A LIFE

Germany, 2005
Dir: Helga Hirsch,
Prod: Nextfilm GMBH & CoKG, 90´
Distr: Helga.Hirsch@t-online.de

It took Norman Salsitz 60 years to come to the decision to return to his childhood city of Kolbuszova in Poland. Along for the journey came his daughter Esther and his three grandchildren. While he strengthens and re-discovers his roots, the idea is that the grandchildren will develop and anchor theirs; the hope is that the past will live on through the next generations to come. With sorrow, gratitude, disappointment, as well as frustration and aggression, he confronts and remembers the places and people who rescued, betrayed, gave lodging and food—but first and foremost, he recalls the fact that he was given his life back in exchange for a few kilos of coffee beans.
Before the war, half of the population of the city were Jews; now not a single one is left, but all it takes to rediscover the realities of the war, is to scratch the surface of the people and house facades in Kolbuszova.