Menemsha Films, which earlier brought us the delightful Nora’s Will, has released a remarkable DVD that is both a celebration of the endurance of Jewish hope for religious freedom—and a stirring reminder of fresh connections we can make even 70 years after WWII.
What makes Hana Brady’s story so remarkable in its reach is that this true story circles the globe: Hana’s life story—nearly extinguished in the gas and flames of Auschwitz—winds up connecting children at a Holocaust educational center in Japan with the lives of the Brady family, who were devastated in the Shoah and later scattered to North America.
Most importantly, this is a pitch-perfect choice to use with children in educational programs about World War II, the Holocaust—or in classes with general themes on war, peace, remembrance and reconciliation.
In fact, the core of this story involves a diverse circle of school children who narrate much of the movie. The Japanese group that began this global quest is dubbed The Small Wings. These were children who wanted to find a project that they and their teacher could undertake to help the world remember the Holocaust and the horrors of World War II. Along the way, a woman who is a Hiroshima survivor comes and helps at the educational center. Anyone familiar with educational efforts on these complex issues will be pleased to hear that the Hiroshima survivor also gives a pitch-perfect description to the children of the major differences between the horrors of nuclear bombing and the Shoah. Clearly, someone with great experience in teaching these lessons had a strong hand behind the writing and final editing of this documentary.
THE BASIC STORY: A real-life Japanese school teacher, who appears throughout the film, sparked this entire story by gathering artifacts for a Holocaust educational center she was developing along with a group of girls and boys called The Small Wings. After applying to receive Holocaust artifacts, a large box arrives with a handful of artifacts, including a battered brown suitcase labeled with Hana Brady’s name. The teacher and her students begin searching for the story behind the suitcase. What they discover will surprise you. They wind up unlocking—and showing us in the film—a whole series of deeply moving memories and other related artifacts and photos. Finally, Hana’s surviving brother George travels to Japan to meet the Japanese students. Eventually, books about Hana—and now this documentary—circle the world to help children learn the real cost of unchecked horrors against humanity like the Shoah.
PURCHASE THE DVD FROM AMAZON: Inside Hana’s Suitcase: The Remarkable True Story Comes to Life is available for ordering now from Amazon.
VISIT MENEMSHA WEBSITE: There’s a Study Guide under the Downloads link in the left margin. Plus, more information on the documentary and Hana’s brother.
A STARTLING MOVIE NOT FOR KIDS: DADDY LONGLEGS
TELLS TRUE STORY OF AN OUT-OF-CONTROL BUT LOVING FATHER
Now for something quite different, but also concerning the ironies, wounds, adventures and potentially inspiring memories flowing from childhood: Daddy Longlegs, released on Dec. 13 by Zeitgeist KimStim, is based on the true childhood experiences of independent filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie.
The best way to envision this movie is to imagine Cosmo Kramer from the hit comedy series Seinfeld suddenly finding that he will become the full-time caretaker of his two small sons for a two-week period each year. Of course, Kramer never was married and never had children in the Seinfeld series, but Ronald Bronstein (who plays the father in Daddy Longlegs) could easily be Kramer’s long-lost brother. Like Kramer, Bronstein’s “Lenny” is tall with a long, funny, deeply lined face and an uncontrollable shock of hair on top. Like Kramer, Lenny is full of wild schemes that should produce a happy life—and often backfire in the gritty streets and high rises of New York City.
For anyone who is a fan of Seinfeld, and “gets” that style of wild-and-inventive urban humor, then Daddy Longlegs is a sometimes-amusing and sometimes-moving look at what a real-life Seinfeld world would do to children. You’ll laugh. You’ll worry. You’ll cry. Lenny is far less funny than Kramer when two “real” kids’ lives hang in the balance!
Nevertheless, for anyone who went through a traumatic childhood with a truly out-of-control parent, this can be a healing film. Especially watching the “extras” with the adult Safdie brothers working on the production of this movie, one realizes that—for all the weirdness their father showered down around them—they loved this always-down-on-his-luck Dad. Even in the film’s final scenes, you won’t know whether to be angry, to shed a tear or to smile in delight. Perhaps all three responses are appropriate as the final credits roll—and that’s the mark of great filmmaking.
PURCHASE THE DVD FROM AMAZON: Daddy Longlegs will be released on Dec. 13 by Zeitgeist KimStim, but is available for pre-order now.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.