George Brady with young Hana, 1938, as seen in INSIDE HANA'S SUITCASE, a film by Larry Weinstein. Picture courtesy Menemsha Films. All rights reserved.
- Karen Levine
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Inside Hana's Suitcase (2009/2012)
Opened: 04/18/2012 Limited
|West Newton, MA||11/11/2011|
|Quad Cinema/NYC||04/18/2012 - 04/24/2012||7 days|
|Kew Gardens, NY||04/20/2012 - 04/26/2012||7 days|
|Malverne, NY||04/20/2012 - 04/26/2012||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
Genre: Canadian Documentary (English)
The delivery of a battered suitcase to Fumiko Ishioka at the Tokyo Holocaust Museum begins the true-life mystery that became the subject of Karen Levine's best-selling book Hana's Suitcase. The suitcase came from the Auschwitz Museum and had Hana Brady's name painted on it. Larry Weinstein's masterful film follows Fumiko's search to discover the details of Hana's life, which leads to the discovery of her brother George in Toronto. As small children they had been sent to Thereisenstadt for being Jewish after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. A superb musical score by Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk, coupled with dramatic reenactments stunningly shot by Horst Zeidler, catches us by the heart to invoke the tragedy of the times. The voices of children from Japan, Canada, and the Czech Republic telling Hana's story are woven around the drama, along with George's memories and Fumiko's quest, to create a film of astonishing power and hope.
I have to admit that I never wanted to make a Holocaust film. The subject was simply too dark and overwhelming to me. I had already made twenty-five films but they were all about music. Over the years, these films had increasingly touched upon extra-musical subjects - personalities, history, science, politics and even about the horrors of World War II, but they were still essentially music films.
Then a friend handed me the book "Hana's Suitcase" soon after it first appeared -- I read it in spite of myself. I was stunned - it affected me beyond words, but in a very positive way. It was not only a powerful story about the Holocaust -- it was filled with hope and with allegory. And it was beautifully structured with fluid movement from past to present, present to past and from continent to continent to continent. Above all, to me it was clearly meant to be a film. Not a journalistic documentary -- though it could be that. Not a full-fledged dramatized narrative, though it could be that too. But I was convinced was that what this film really wanted to be was a hybrid documentary/drama. The drama would tell the back story, the documentary would tell the present day story and a number of mixed techniques could be used for everything else in between. And I realized that with all my heart, I truly wanted to direct this film -- this Holocaust film.
I feel extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to make "Inside Hana's Suitcase". I got to know so many kind and generous individuals in Canada, Europe and Japan -- above all George Brady (Hana's brother) and Fumiko Ishioka in Tokyo, who were a constant inspiration. Naturally, when one approaches a subject that is as powerful and pervasive as the Holocaust there is a tremendous responsibility for the filmmaker to portray it as accurately as possible, but also to differentiate it from other similar-themed films that have come before it. I feel that this story, through the courage and conviction of these two, achieves those goals.
This film has grown out of a remarkably popular book - "Hana's Suitcase" by Karen Levine -- a book that in less than seven years, has been translated into over 40 different languages, has been read by millions around the world, and has even been adapted into several plays. In Canada alone it is estimated that half a million young people from ages nine to fourteen (many of whom are now young adults) have read the story of Hana and George Brady. So in a film of the same subject there is an implicit desire to follow the story of the book, but at the same time, a desire to go beyond the book in order to appeal to an even wider audience and address issues that will make it that much more a profound and satisfying film experience.
As a filmmaker who has previously made documentaries for television (though some have had limited theatrical runs) I have designed "Inside Hana's Suitcase" with the assumption that a theatrical film should go beyond a TV piece. This idea is what has guided us through our research, writing and stylistic approach -- it has led us to devise a number of visually stunning techniques using animation, and dramatic stylizations that enhance the story's emotional core....
Perhaps the film's most powerful technique has nothing to do with special effects, animation or dramatization. It is our use of George himself to narrate his story with the help of Fumiko, George's daughter Lara, and a disarmingly insightful group of youthful storytellers from Canada, Japan and Czech Republic, all of whom comment on the story of Hana and George as well as speak about intolerance and compassion, cruelty and kindness, magic and loss. Most of all they underline a story which is harrowing in its sadness, yet sparkling with hope and promise. I am certain that in viewing "Inside Hana's Suitcase" an audience will discover a story that is very special and universal, but also uplifting in its promise of hope for Humanity.
-- Larry Weinstein, Director