Faces which carry history. That's what you will take away with you after watching a highly-charged two hours about the Kindertransport trains which left Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia during the nine months before the Second World War began to wrest 100,000 mainly Jewish children away from the Nazis. This act of salvation was made possible not just by rescuers like Nicholas Winton, a 29-year-old London stockbroker in 1938, but by willing families in Britain, even if some did exploit the kids as free labour.
And emotion, memory, love, and loss are etched deeply into the faces of a lady who still dreams of a sunny, happy childhood and wakes sobbing; another who woke up to the reality of Nazism when no child showed up at her birthday party; there is, by contrast, Kurt Fuchel, who led a comfy, sheltered existence in Vienna; while another survivor remembers - when still very young - being tossed through a plate-glass window.
As the film moves on from troubling German childhoods through the journeys to Britain to the children's selection (by families) and survival in their new country, some of the most upsetting memories include the agony of departure, as children left parents for what the parents correctly guessed would be forever. Towards the end of the film, an old Czech lady remembers the letter which she wrote to her folks after the war being returned to her with the brief scribble on the back: 'Deported to Auschwitz, 1944'.
Director Mark Jonathan Harris' plain, unfussy style does not embroider or interfere with what the survivors say, and he allows his camera plenty of time to absorb the story on each face. His camera also pans very slowly across old photographs so that the faces in those become as alive - and as moving - as those which speak.
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