“DRAWING AGAINST OBLIVION” is a film that doesn’t follow any commercial objective and cannot be pigeonholed as belonging to any specific genre: Is it a portrait, is it an art film, is it a period drama? Does it deal with social, socially critical questions? It’s a mixture of all that. Without the typical archive pictures often used in most documentaries, it elucidates the atrocities committed in the name of racist fanaticism. It’s about children, the most innocent of the innocent in a society and in a war.
“What happened to the children who lay in the wrong cradle? What happened there?” is the question the Austrian artist Manfred Bockelmann asks himself. He was born in 1943 and has now embarked on a mission: He wants to shed light on the countless children and teenagers who were murdered by the Nazis and disappeared in the archives as a statistical number. He wants to give back a face, a personality, to the numbers – that is his aim. Drawn in charcoal using horizontal lines on coarse jute canvas, he draws one portrait after the other. These children look at us questioningly, filled with fear: “Why me? What did I do wrong?”
The moment of deracination and total loss of orientation is captured on the photographs the SS took of their victims for the official records. Manfred Bockelmann uses these photos as a template for his drawings.
Seen with the eyes of the artist, the film embarks on a journey to archives in the USA and Auschwitz concentration camp and meets children from those times, Holocaust survivors. The result was an emotional enmeshment that strikes the audience with its pithy associational language and imagery.
The film is a call for more tolerance and humanity.
The film doesn’t search for culprits but uses positive energy to show that it’s important to take a look, to not be in denial, in order to prevent something like ever happening again.
It reminds us of the value of empathetic humanity – not only with a view to the past but also to now and here, in our present-day lives.
“To me, it makes no difference what nationality someone is.
German, Polish, British, Russian... What is he or she like as a person? That’s what matters.”
Tadeusz Smreczynski (Holocaust survivor)