Tag Archives: Holocaust movies

From sewer to sunlight

Scene from "In Darkness" from Sony Pictures Classics

The sun felt especially warm and bright as I exited Harkins Theatres Shea 14 this afternoon, and I took special note of chirping birds and bits of green in bloom. Normally I leave this particular movie theater with a single burning question: To gelato or not to gelato? But today I had something else on my mind. Sheer unbounded gratitude for the freedom to walk to my car and return home in safety.

I was still dabbing tears from my eyes as I left the theater, feeling profoundly moved and nearly breathless after watching a film called “In Darkness.” It’s based on the true story of a Polish sewer worker and petty thief named Leopold Socha who saved several Jews from certain extermination at the hands of Nazis by hiding them in the sewer system under Lvov, Poland in 1943.

The sewers, filled with filth and rats, become a sort of microcosm of society for the folks who must live there if they are to live at all. Everything we experience above ground happens below ground too — from sibling spats to sexuality — often as noise from life above seeps in. Bombs, beatings and machine guns. Even liturgical fare.

Everyday objects once taken for granted wield new power in this world. Scissors. Crayons. A fringed scarf. A raw onion. Even a belt ripped from frayed pants by a father fraught with desperation. Children see things they ought not witness. Parents make choices that they, and others, will have to live with forever. A couple delights in an odd sort of “Cinderella” moment. And adults are comforted by a little girl’s hushed lullaby.

It feels easy to tell the good guys from the bad as “In Darkness” opens, but things change in a hurry as a simple man is confronted with complicated choices. And days spent in hiding wear down body, mind and soul. Still, nothing in this film feels contrived — a credit to both screenwriter David F. Shamoon and director Agnieszka Holland.

“My main hope,” shares Shamoon, “is that Loepold Socha’s example will inspire others as much as it has inspired me. Like many of the other Righteous, he was no saint, which is what makes this a universal story. He was just an ordinary man who made some crucial choices that led to extraordinary deeds.”

Films that capture the complexity of human nature, at once beautiful and ugly, are rare — as are films that question so exquisitely the place of God in the human picture. Parents, in particular, will appreciate the choices made and chances taken by those in the sewers — and leave wondering how they’d act living either in the sewers or above them.

— Lynn

Note: “In Darkness” is an Agnieszka Holland film from Sony Pictures Classics starring Robert Wieckiewicz, Benno Fürmann, Agnieszka Grochowska, Maria Schrader and Herbert Knaup. Rating: R. Languages: Polish/German/Yiddish/Ukranian (English subtitles). Click here to read the reflections of those whose directing, cinematography, music, production design, costume design and editing make this such a truly exceptional work.

Coming up: Exploring the Anne Frank Center’s new home, Wall of words, A journey home


Chandler tales

I’ve long suspected there was at least one cub reporter in my midst. Sure enough, my 17-year-old daughter Lizabeth is showing clear signs.

Before heading out to the Ostrich Festival in Chandler Sunday afternoon, Lizabeth asked if she could take my camera along. We gave the battery a quick charge and off she went — with a couple of goals in mind.

First, to meet a young actor from the Nickelodeon television show titled “iCarly” who was making a guest appearance at the event — a plan she wisely abandoned after seeing the line that appeared to be several blocks long.

Lizabeth did the mental math, and soon realized that waiting hours for a few seconds of time and a quickie autograph was a high investment/low yield enterprise.

Second, she wanted to get her fix of cute (and even not so cute) animals. Ostrich races. Pig races. And sea lions clever enough to avoid the racing gig altogether. Mission accomplished there — and more. Think goats, cattle, emus, sheep, water buffalo and yaks.

Lizabeth came home eager to share her photos (which I’ve assembled for the slide show below). Many evidence her offbeat sense of humor. The photos of signs and a recycling bin suggest she’s been either channeling or mocking me. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

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I was impressed by her keen reporting of the events — and her wit in recounting them. Knowing attention to detail is important to the journalism craft, I asked her what types of food were available at the festival. Her answer was simple and plenty accurate: “Fried.”

I was sorry I’d asked when Lizabeth offered further details. Hot dogs on a stick. Pizza on a stick. Fry bread. Funnel cakes. Snowcones. Catfish. Even ostrich burgers. “That,” she quipped, “must be what happens to the losers.”

Apparently the pig races were particularly amusing — largely because the pigs belonged to various groups with names like “Hollywood pigs,” “Rock & pop pigs,” “Country pigs,” and “Political pigs.”

Seems one of the “political pigs” (dubbed “John McPig”) had a hard time deciding which starting box to enter as his race drew near. I’m told he tried the boxes of each of his opponents before wandering off, only to be redirected by a race official to his designated stall.

But alas, there’s nothing artsy about an ostrich or pig race — so check out some of these cultural events coming soon to Chandler if they’re more your style:

Chandler-Gilbert Community College Performing Arts presents an original CGCC production titled “Get a Life” March 24-27 at the Arnette Scott Ward Performing Arts Center.

The Chandler Symphony Orchestra presents a concert coupled with a food drive (as part of the 2011 Orchestras Feeding America program sponsored by the League of American Orchestras) March 27 at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

The East Valley Jewish Community Center (in partnership with the City of Chandler and Chandler Unified School District) presents a film titled “An Article of Hope” April 5 at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

The Chandler Children’s Choir presents “Summer Camp 2011” June 13-17 (for ages 6-16) at Tri-City Baptist Church in Chandler.

Enjoy your time in Chandler — and be thankful your kids have yet to come up with the idea of parent races.

— Lynn

Note: Watch the daily online calendar of events at www.raisingarizonakids.com for ongoing news of upcoming events with a family-focus in the Valley and throughout the state.

Coming up: Thoughts of Japan

Don’t blink in Chandler

"Multicultural Harmony" by Sara, 10, Zehra, 12, and Ayla, 11 - Funkor Child Art Center

A bevy of alerts from the fine folks in Chandler crossed my virtual desk today — all noting upcoming events with a multicultural twist.

I got the feeling after reading them that you should never blink in Chandler, lest you miss something truly remarkable.

Here’s a quick review of just a few of the multicultural arts experiences you can enjoy during a single month — January 2011 — in Chandler:

First, the initial fundraiser for the Tolerance & Holocaust Museum to be built in Chandler. It features a premiere of the award-winning documentary “Rene & I” on Sat, Jan 8, at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

The film — which is being presented by the East Valley Jewish Community Center — shares the story of Rene and Irene Guttman, twins sent to Auschwitz at the age of six who survived cruel experiments by Joseph Mengele. 

“Rene & I” is described as “an uplifting story about overcoming adversity against all odds” and “a tribute to tolerance, endurance of the human spirit, and the triumph of good over evil.”

Holocaust survivor Helen Handler, who was sent to Auschwitz at age 15, will speak prior to the film’s screening. Handler is the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust and has dedicated her life to “preventing hate and genocide.”

The evening will also include a “bookstore event” in the lobby and opportunities to learn more about how you can support the building of the museum or become a museum volunteer.

A second event designed to foster greater awareness and acceptance takes place just one week later — on Sat, Jan 15, in the courtyard of the downtown Chandler Public Library.

The “16th Annual Chandler Multicultural Festival” brings together “a collection of nations and cultures” for a day of dance, music, art, ethnic foods and more.

Think flamenco, Native American and step dancing. Think music from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Africa and the Dominican Republic. Think Russian/Jewish folk music and Middle Eastern music played on the Oud.

Students from the International School of Arizona are scheduled to perform songs in French, Spanish and Italian at 12:10pm on the “Unity Stage,” while students from Hope Chinese School are scheduled to perform at noon on the “Celebration Stage.”

The event also features live entertainment, diverse artisans and “an interactive area for children where they can experience a rock wall, bounce activity, coloring, and arts and crafts.”

A third event, also part of Chandler’s “2011 Celebration of Unity,” is “an inspirational multi-media jazz concert based on poetic masterwork by poet/playwright Langston Hughes.”

The concert takes place Fri, Jan 28, at Chandler Center for the Arts. “Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods of Jazz” will be performed by Dr. Ron McCurdy and his jazz quartet.

“Ask Your Mama” is a 12-part epic poem that pays “homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad beginning in the 1960s.”

Hughes scored the poem with “musical cues drawn from blues and Dixieland, gospel songs, boogie woogie, bebop and progressive jazz, Latin ‘cha cha’ and Afro-Cuban mambo music, German lieder, Jewish liturgy, West Indies calypso, and African drumming.”

The performance will be accompanied by “video images of the Harlem Renaissance by African American artists and photographers including Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks and Romare Bearden.”

Now, perhaps, you understand my admonition to avoid blinking in Chandler. But do feel free to clap, scat or tap your toes.

— Lynn

Note: Learn more about the “Rene & I” event at www.evjcc.org and more about the other two events at www.chandlercenter.org. Details about Chandler’s multicultural festival are available at www.chandleraz.gov/special-events or the city’s special events hotline at 480-782-2735. Click here to learn more about the Funkor Child Art Center.

Coming up: What do “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” Vanderbilt University and The Dramatist Guild have in common?