Disappearing Memories (in development)

PROJECT NAME: Disappearing Memories

LENGTH: 28 min.

PRODUCTION STATUS: in development (developed during ESODOC Workshop 2012 – Zelig School for Documentary, Bolzano, Italy – tutor Hugh Purcell)

GENRE: Creative documentary with archival material combined with animation

Pitching at FAMUFEST on 16/11/2012 – streamed by Czech TV (min 7:15-12:15): http://www.ceskatelevize.cz/ivysilani/10000000089-famufest-pitching-session/21225100079/

LOGLINE

Creative documentary revealing a hidden history of an area in Central Bohemia called Hradištko where a Nazi labor camp used to stand and presenting the fates of its prisoners of war through the eyes of the narrator and other inhabitants of the village.

SYNOPSIS

The documentary film Disappearing Memories gradually reveals the historical episodes from the concentration camps of the Second World War which are hidden behind the façade of the beautiful Central Bohemian landscape. The film will combine recent interviews with the witnesses of the hard times and with the last surviving captives of the concentration camps. The film will use historical documents and animation visualizing the missing parts of the story that will be unified by the narration of the director who will use her voiceover for interpreting the story as seen through her personal experience.

The documentary will start with the large expositions of the romantic landscape. It will gradually focus on the vicinity of the former concentration camp in the village of Hradištko. It is hard to believe that there used to be a labor camp with 500 prisoners who were kept there in inhuman conditions. These days, in the former area of the camp, there are cottages, gardens and Prague inhabitants coming there to spend weekends.

The place of the former camp will be introduced by the local young historian and First Aid worker Bob and local librarian Lucy – a couple of young people who introduce the dark past hidden behind the sunny presence and who are trying to raise awareness about the historical events. There is only one official ceremony to commemorate the end of the War but this is very small scale event. These two young historians involve the narrator who owns a summer house in the concentration camp area to widen her consciousness and accept also the tragic aspect of the place. Gradually the three young people will get into the past through talks with aged neighbours, they start researching fragmental historical documents, land pictures in war archives, old photographs and they travel as far as France and the major concentration camp of Flossenbürg to get deeper into the past. Thus the narration beginning with complex shots gets into smaller and smaller details, revealing sad and touching human stories, both from Czech and French point of view.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

In 1943 the SS displaced the inhabitants in the central area of Böhmen und Mären Protectorate on the former territory of Czechoslovakia. 40 000 Czech inhabitants were removed. In this region, located 30 km south of Prague between the Vltava and Sazava rivers, the SS built a chain of small scale labour camps. There were 9 labor camps in the Central Bohemia region which were a part of Flossenbürg concentration Camp in Germany.

There were mainly prisoners from France, Belgium, Italy, Poland, Netherlands and Russia deported from the concentration camp in Flossenbürg. Around 80 percent of the prisoners were French. Some of these survivers wrote their memoires  which will be a main source of information for the documentary: Jean Geoffroy: Au temps de crematoiresRémy Tessonneau: Jacques, L´Ami d´Achille and Jean Ménez: Memoires de Captivité 1943-1945.

CHARACTERS & ACCESS

The direct witnesses, the French prisoners who survived tortures in the labour camp, are either too old or not alive anymore. We will reach them through their memoires and combine read passages of their memoires with illustrations achieved by classical animation techniques and use parts of documentary film which interviewed few of them in the late 1990’s (documentary film by Michel Clisson: Hradištko).

The “guide” of the film will be my neighbour Bob Štěrba (33), who will lead us in the area of the camp and we will sneak together in the infirmary, the only original wooden structure which has remained in the former area of the camp. We will also travel to Flossenbürg concentration camp together to reveal more facts.

Interviews:

Michel Clisson (81), son of a prisoner who died in Hradištko. He is a president of Associacion of the Prisoners of Flossenburg. We meet him in his office in Paris and he tells us about his father. We also use the email correspondence between him and director (using voiceover technique) as an evidence how the history is being revealed.

Marcela Hurtová (80) who worked at Měchenice train station in 1943-45 and has directly witnessed the commando working there. We interview her in her house in Měchenice and she describe the final days of the war and the painful escape of the rest of prisoners and also a platonic love affair with one of them, French prisoner Théo, who survived the hard conditions in the camp and kept exchanging letters with her after the war until these days. She will also bring us to the train station and reconstruct the history on the spot.

The access to the area of the former camp and the wooden house is complicated. It is in private property and so far it was only possible to make shots from behind the fence.

VISUAL STYLE

The film will use voice over of the director, narrator of the film in the “I” form as the main linking story, and we could hear the narrator behind the camera while leading interviews with the subjects. The shots of the landscape and concentration camp area will be combined with sequences of collages and montages of the archival materials with the voiceover of the narrator, combined with animation sequences and read excerpts of the memoires.

STATEMENT

I have chosen this topic because I am well acquainted with history of this place and its people and emotionally attached to it. My family’s summer house, where I spent my childhood and where I am coming often for the weekends, is located 100 meters to the former area of the labor camp. It is a documentary war history as seen through a small European vicinity. I think it is important to bring the question how we deal with our past.

The film is aimed mainly at film festival audience, people interested in history being told in an untypical, creative narrative.

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