July 2014 was an interesting moment to be invited to the Jerusalem Film Festival. I was a jury member for the Spirit Of Freedom Award. We watched 10 impassioned and geographically diverse films exploring the search for freedom in Mali, Ethiopia, Ukraine, Turkey/Kurdistan, Greece, The Netherlands, Rwanda, Darfur, Syria and Bosnia. My fellow jurors were the celebrated Palestinian actor/director Makram Khoury and the multi-award-winning Turkish Producer Zeynep Atakan. I was privileged to sit with them.
In addition the 31st Jerusalem Film Festival screened two films very close to my heart. German Concentration Camps Factual Survey – a truly harrowing documentary produced by my late father Sidney Bernstein in 1945 – was never completed and not seen fully until this year. The Imperial War Museum in London spent years of painstaking work restoring and completing my father’s film. The inspiration behind this effort Dr. Toby Haggith, was present to explain why and how he and his colleagues had restored this forgotten work, and to put this very difficult document of atrocity in a context. My brother David Bernstein also came to put the work in familial context. Night Will Fall, directed by Andre Singer, is an excellent 2014 documentary that details why my father’s film was not finished and shown 70 years ago. It was awarded Honorable and Special Mention at the Jerusalem Film Festival and Sheffield Doc Fest last month.
These two films by and about my father’s work documenting the Holocaust, and the Spirit of Freedom Award films all speak directly to what we do at 3 Generations: telling difficult stories, documenting atrocities, giving survivors opportunity to speak of their experiences and in the words of my father creating “evidence for all mankind”. As the narrator of his film explained in 1945, if we do not take heed, “night will fall”. For many people across the Middle East and beyond it seems that this July night has indeed fallen.
– Jane Wells