By Merle Exit
Philippe Mora is a second-generation Holocaust survivor—eight members of his family died at Auschwitz. Born in 1949 in Paris, Mora moved to Australia with his family when he was small, and he was not aware of the role that his father played in the French resistance, nor of how his mother had evaded, by just one day, what would have been a certain death at Auschwitz.
Those stories are at the center of “Three Days in Auschwitz,” a documentary film by Mora that will be opening at the Kew Gardens Cinema Friday. An award-winning director, he has made both documentaries and fiction features. In addition, Mora is an accomplished painter, inspired by the memories of Holocaust survivors and his feelings about the Nazis. Mora’s film makes particulary effective use of his own paintings, and of those by his mother, Mirka Mora. (Mora’s father, Georges, died in 1992.) Mirka is also a moving, and entertaining, presence through much of the film. Those paintings carry a large part of the film’s emotional charge. Mora notes that for him the camera “was a separation between me and Auschwitz,” while in his paintings, the emotions connected with Holocaust’s horrors are given free rein.
Bearing the subtitle “cinematic notes for my grandchildren,” this documentary is Mora’s way of making sure that the events of the past are not forgotten. He calls the film “the sum of my life,” emphasizing the story of his family and of how the story of the Holocaust is, for him, personal as well as historical. We follow Mora from Melbourne, to Paris and London, as he traces the history of the concentration camps.
Returning to the barbed wire fences that surround the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, we see the symbol of the atrocities that human beings are capable of. But “Three Days in Auschwitz” also leaves us with a valuable and uplifting message: “The capacity of the human spirit to recover from tragic circumstances as well as the importance of learning from our past to clear our way to a much brighter future.”
“I thought it better to make a very personal film, so that people could relate to it,”he said, “rather than try to make an objective documentary, which would have been impossible.”
The themes of the film are powerfully underlined by a moody, expressive score that was composed by Eric Clapton, one of the film’s co-producers. Clapton’s original score can only be heard by viewing the film.
The special “Three Days in Auschwitz” theatrical event will include a taped question-and-answer session with Mora and segments from “Monsieur Mayonnaise,” a film about Mora’s father, who used the code name “Monsieur Mayonnaise” during his time with the French reistance. Another short film on the program is “German Sons,” about the relationship between Mora and the son of a Nazi, who engage in talking about their past.
Managing Director / CEO of Vision Films Lise Romanoff says: “We’re honored to bring this important film to audiences worldwide. This poignant picture is sure to stay with you long after it’s over.”