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Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2016 Review: “Every Face Has a Name” (2016) ★★★★★


Every war left the damage of human soul behind, but of course, always failed to break its spirit. But what matter most is the human lives that will never be able to come back again. Every time when I watch a documentary film about World War II, I keep asking the same question, “Why someone on Earth should ever allow this to ever happen?”. A documentary film named, “EVERY FACE HAS A NAME” literally reads my mind by bringing something I always wanted to see: that every killed soul, every person kept in Auschwitz camp, every tortured child has a name. Now it’s time to hear their stories…

It’s a dark but full of hope Europe in April 28, 1945. Sweden’s Malmö accepts, several times a day, freed prisoners from Nazi camps. Its old black-and-white video captured back then shows thousands of happy faces ready to celebrate their freedom. Elderly people, women, men, children are in the same crowd awaiting for something big and exciting ahead of them. But who are they? What kind of life they had last four years? What are the name of the faces you see in the video footage is what will make you wonder…

It’s touching, deep and remarkable to see a woman from Toronto, Canada named Fredzia Marmur, who recognizes herself in that video, when she arrived in Malmö. At first, she does not recognize anyone, but soon after starts recalling a life-changing moment that stays with her up until these days. Yes, sometimes memories can be painful to keep them in your head, but luckily for us we learn many things from her and from many others in the film, what the War World II was about nothing but showing muscles.

A memory every participant had was very vivid, clear and heartbreaking.  Each of them share their own experience you can’t listen without tears. Each time when they reach from one part of their life to the second one, you will simply wish that that part of the history would have never occurred. Piotr Gorski, Phillip Jackson, Bernhard Kempler, Ryszard Lagemo, Anita Lobel, Svenn Martinsen, Judith Popinski, Elsie Ragusin and Nurit Stern make another trip back in dreadful time not only to tell what happened with them while they were in Nazi camp, but share their first experience to be freed, being rejoiced, and to celebrate a chance to reunite with family again.

Director Magnus Gertten does an outstanding job by bringing everyone he could find in front of camera to show that all those anonymous faces in the video had names. Each person you see had its own life, family and dreams they lived for. As you watch the film, you realize that there is nothing that could damage our life and stability more than ourselves when we want to prove something to others. It just happens that proving comes with the force and war that never justifies any reason provided.

But this film is not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s about you and me. It’s about them and those who lost their lives during any war. It’s about mistreated people, ignored and kept in captivity, who after all had their names. Names that will go down to the history as one of the most remarkable, strong and self-determined people who did not allow the war to break them!

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