Three minutes: 2021 extension .
Directed by Bianca Steiger.
With Helena Bonham Carter.
The 16mm clip offers a speculative and emotional look into the lives of unsuspecting Jewish citizens in a small Polish village on the brink of World War II.
Documentary at its best can be an effective vehicle for audience empathy, and rarely is this more true than in Bianca Steiger’s unforgettable Three Minutes . As an investigation into the criminal media and as a tribute to those lost in the Holocaust, this is a timely and poignant film.
In 2009, author Glenn Kurtz discovered a homemade 16mm film of his grandfather David in his parents’ closet in 1938. Inside the offending footage is a three-minute clip shot in Nazelsk, Poland , birthplace of David Meir a year ago. It came into being when the Nazis attacked the community, leaving only 100 of its 3,000 Jewish residents alive.
During this 69-minute documentary, director Bianca Steiger watches 150 Jews for three minutes as she tries to identify them, telling as much of their story as possible to a world that has forgotten them.
Stigter opens with a three-minute clip that, without context, might sound like an impossibly corny period B-roll. However, knowing what happened to the sea of smiling faces, completely unaware of the dark fate that awaited most of them, becomes an essential part of the story that needs to be filled in to the smallest detail.
Three Minutes: An Extension , which lacks a talking head, simply throws material back and forth, often pausing for a few minutes and focusing on individual images, says Helena Bonham Carter with fascinating curiosity.
Material damaged by “vinegar syndrome,” a chemical process that destroys celluloid, is limited in how much it can be separated from the digital material, despite hiring a lighting effects company to help clean it up as much as possible. If only the infamous “enhanced” feature of many televised police procedurals were a reality.
What follows is a fascinating and completely unconventional thriller that breaks down every aspect of the video, from testing the light to tell the time of day, to reflecting on what a citizen says about his social position and the ambiguous meaning of a message. On a grocery store sign, hire an expert in writing and compare the results to the public index.
That’s not to ignore the people themselves, and while it’s nearly impossible to know most of them, given that many of their descendants will also die in their 80s, it’s a wonderful moment when we learn that a group of onlookers have seen the image and recognize the face. of the grandfather.
The man in question, Maurice Chandler, is still alive and being interviewed for the film, providing surprising context to the video as he recounts his own experiences in the city. The second half of Steiger’s film focuses more clearly on the horrors that occurred in Nasilsk a year later, as Jewish citizens were forced to gather in the town square, sent by train to the ghetto, then sent to concentration camps. the field
This rich documentary may not be “cinematic” – sure, the stop-motion choices aren’t particularly interesting at times – but the spoken word has a huge impact on what we watch and is worth the context. Clever editing – juxtaposing smiley faces with eerie narration and, at one point, even dubbing a modern voice from a modern city – adds more soul to what we see.
Steiger is also interested in the way we viewers analyze historical records, lamenting the sense of mortality inherent in watching any movie old enough, be it home video or fictional. Most of the people in this video are already dead and anyone who has any real connection to him will be dead soon. It is the destructive force of time, and while the memory-preserving quality of film may help slow that destruction, it is also bound to join the void.
Despite its dark subject matter, this documentary is also an homage to the joys of cinema; David Curtis bought the camera shortly before visiting his hometown and, unaware of its potential future value, created a visual record that people could see 80 years later. Seeing all the happy faces trying to fit into the camera frame, many of which have seemingly never seen a camera before, is perhaps the greatest testament to film’s ability to capture the essence of a person long after the his death.
This documentary is by no means the final word on these people and their stories, just snapshots. Future scans may show more detail, especially if the images are available online for all to see
Running for 69 minutes, Stigter’s film captures the agonizing yearning of elusive truths we’ll never quite know. Three minutes: a stretch is as sublime as its cinematic result: a moving piece of investigative journalism that opens a window into a tragic and untold past.
Note Flashing Caption – Movie: ★★★★ / Movie: ★★★
Sean Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film tours.