Fisher chose to drag his siblings to the historic sites of Austria that the
country would rather hide away from the world.
They would visit the concentration camps their father survived. It is a trip Israeli filmmaker Fisher’s
sister and two brothers make quite reluctantly.
Nevertheless, they experience family history as a form of therapy they never
knew they needed in Fisher’s Six Million
and One (trailer
opens this Friday in New York.
somehow lived through his internment at the Gusen and Gunskirchen camps, but
just barely. Amongst the last camp
populations to be liberated, the Fishers’ father easily could have been the
National Socialists’ final victim, the titular six million and first. He did survive, but he never told the tale,
except in the unpublished memoir discovered after his death. While most of the family has no interest in
plumbing the depths of their father’s wounded psyche, the documentarian brother
obsesses over it, using it as the blue print for SMAO.
David starts the voyage solo, traveling to Austria, where he meets several
townspeople who were slightly surprised to learn they had moved into houses
across the street from a concentration camp.
He also journeys to America to interview some of the surviving GI’s who
liberated the Austrian camps and still suffer from post-traumatic stress
syndrome decades later. In fact, these
might be some of the most eye-opening scenes of the film, arguing for separate
documentary treatment in their own right.
Fisher cajoles his siblings into returning to Austria with him. They literally retrace their father’s steps
on the notorious death march between camps and in the munitions tunnel he dug
as a slave laborer. Yet, having not read
their father’s chronicle, they are unaware of the significance of each leg of
the journey until it is revealed by their filmmaker brother.
the humanistic empathy of his visit with America’s “Greatest Generation,” SMAO revisits some well traveled documentary
roads. For those of us who have covered many
thematically related films, it clearly bears close comparison to Jake Fisher’s A Generation Apart (presumably no
relation), as well as any number of films documenting Survivors’ return journeys
to their old fateful homelands (such as Inside Hana’s Suitcase or Blinky & Me for
instance). However, the refreshing wit
and attitude of the Fishers helps differentiate SMAO from the field. It is
clear they are never reading from a pre-written script, nor are they
interesting in indulging in cheap-and-easy sentiment.
Yes, there have been a lot of films about this
uniquely horrific episode in human history, but SMAO still finds something new to say. Though it displays a bit of inclination
towards the discursive, writer-director-producer Fisher and editor Hadas Ayalon
ultimately shape it all into a compelling narrative. Ran Bagno’s ECM-ish blend of chamber strings
and experimental music also nicely underscores the dramatic presentations
on-screen. Recommended for thoughtful
audiences, Six Million and One opens
this Friday (9/28) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, Holocaust Cinema, Israeli Cinema