Wednesday, April 1, 2009


The International Buenos Aires Independent Film Festival happens once a year, in theaters all over the city. Some in big name movie theaters, and some in small screening rooms, but its not the theater that makes the movie. So far I've seen two films, but I hope to see many more.
The first was an interesting film named She Unfolds By Day. I went to the film with Jess and Ted, and as we traveled to the Abasto shopping mall we discussed what we hopped the movie would be like. We were expecting the best of independent film making. Weird stuff. Maybe stuff that would make us uncomfortable, and for sure we wanted to be made to think. We settled into the comfiest theater I've ever been to in Buenos Aires (even though I'll forever be a Cine Lavalle loyalist, can't beat ten pesos for a movie) and as the doors shut, the lights went down, and the film began. Well, we got what we came for. It was weird, and a little bit boring, but we discussed it for a few days afterwards, so I guess that means it must have left some mark on us. The film was about an old woman, and her sick son who was not thrilled with his mother's increasing disappearing act. In the end, he goes on a date with her nurse. There, two lonely people come together over the end of one lonely woman's life. The story itself could have been told in thirty minutes, but it was cut up, told out of order, and interspersed in between the scenes were shots of a pack of wolves running around in the snow, the son's dog running around in the snow or jumping under a hose during the summer, and shots of bugs in nature that were often a little to close for my comfort level. After the movie was over we turned the message over in our minds, for surely there had to be a message. Aging is natural was the most obvious answer, but we kept returning to that pack of running wolves...maybe they were the metaphor for the old woman! Ted decided that maybe she was the lone wolf!! Wondering around in nature and ready to die. I thought maybe she was the stag that the wolves's ate leaving only some antlers behind to play with.
The message of the next movie was not difficult to decipher, but it did leave me with plenty of food for thought. After work on Tuesday, I bussed over to the Alliance Francaise, a French cultural center, for a documentary called Pizza in Auschwitz. It documents the journey of a Holocaust survivor as he returns to Germany and Poland to take his two Israeli children on the same path he took during the Holocaust. Only him and his older brother survived. I'm fairly certain none of you will see this movie, so I'll spoil the ending. Even though he never talked about the Holocaust before his first child was born, with the first screams of him baby boy he began to talk about it and never stopped. His children had grown up with Holocaust horror stories instead of bed time stories, and his daughter had grown up terrified that every knock on the door was an SS officer coming to get them. He says he raised them to be strong, she says he terrorized them. His older son grew up to be a very religious Jew, and along the journey, the daughter (who narrated the film) echoed thoughts I had once thought myself on a similar journey. She was jealous of her brother who had his prayer with him wherever he went.
The climax of the story comes when their father attempts to have them stay the night in his old bunk in Berkenhau. In the beginning of the movie we see an old man who has dealt with his nightmares through laughter. They make Holocaust jokes, not extremely distasteful, but jokes none the less that at first are shocking to hear, but in the end I found myself giggling with the old man. His attitude was always that there was nothing to cry about. He survived, that was his victory. Once he returns to Birkenhau things changed a bit. The office of the camp gives him a hard time about spending the night. They want him to pay if they'll let him stay at all. The old man...freaks out. He yells at them, you have no right!!! I already paid my dues here!! When a survivor comes here you have to let him do whatever he wants to do because of all that he suffered. In the end they spend a good part of the night in the bunk where the daughter forced her dad to have some pizza they brought in. What a sensation he says! To be eating a slice of pizza while lying on his old bunk where he lay night after night after a long day of working on the ramp into the camp sorting through the clothes and luggage of those sent directly to the gas chambers. It is during this part of the film that the daughter has a break through and the movie climaxes. She yells, we will never understand you!!!! We will never understand you and you should be grateful for that, what did you want us to go through what you did? Because then we could understand you, but we didn't, and we love you, but we will never understand you and you should be grateful that we love you and that we will never understand you. Even in his old bunk it would still be impossible to understand him having never lived it. It was powerful. In the end I guess that was what he came there to hear because they ended the trip before visiting the final camp he was sent to and traveled back to Israel to be in comfortable beds and with loving family. But their time together on this journey had obviously changed them all, and changed their relationship forever, and for better.
I left the movie deep in though, and found a pastry shop next door. I bough a media luna covered in chocolate that at first disappointed, but then I found the glorious dolce de leche center and was glad to taste the sweetness of life as I could feel it on my skin and see it with my eyes. I sat down on a wall next to Aveneida 9 de Julo (the widest avenue in the world) to enjoy my treat and to think for a bit. A line the daughter said at the end struck me: she said I guess this is why some people say there is no such thing as a Holocaust survivor. And to think all those who physically survived will soon be dead. We must never forget.

1 comment:

Reed said...

I can't believe that's a documentary! Wow. Would love to talk about it with you sometime.