Barcelona Short Film Festival 2022
My Two Lives; Creative Responses to the Holocaust
Lotte Weiss was a holocaust survivor. She never forgot the horrors of her three years of internment at Auschwitz and Birkenau. Yet it is her immense life force that propelled her through the torture and devastation that enveloped her. Mrs Weiss inherent integrity and morality remained steadfast. It was her capacity for goodness, kindness, forgiveness and love which never faltered throughout the misery and beatings she endured, to give her strength and the will to survive.
Hi Sarita, it’s great to be able to talk with you about your powerful documentary My Two Lives, Creative Responses to the Holocaust. As well as gaining multiple nominations since its release in 2020 you got an Honourable Mention at the Best Shorts Competition Humanitarian Award. What has it meant to you to know that your film has been so warmly received?
Lotte was such a vivacious woman who had the biggest heart and a zest for life. I think she would be quite taken aback by just how far her story has travelled.
Knowing that Lotte’s message is reaching so many people around the world means a great deal to me and the family.
When you made My Two Lives, Creative Responses to the Holocaust did you imagine the film would have such a long film festival run?
Holocaust survivor experiences when re-told strike a chord with most people. With the world as it is, with antisemitism and hate speech on the rise globally, I can say that I am delighted there is still a place for our film and I think we have been incredibly fortunate the film has done so well.
What does it mean to you to be able to bring this film to Barcelona Short Film Festival this year?
Spain has or had an incredibly rich Jewish history. To have our film play in Barcelona, one of my favourite cities and in this festival is truly meaningful.
How important a role do festivals like BSFF play in providing a platform for filmmakers and short films?
I think festivals like BSFF play a vital role for film makers and in particular short films because they provide a platform where diverse and varied films have a place and can be appreciated
In 2021 Lotte Weiss passed away but not before be able to share her incredible and inspiring story with you. What did she think of this film?
Lotte would be delighted that her experiences and her message for tolerance, peace, hope and understanding is being passed on to generations.
How did you get introduced to Mrs. Weiss and her daughter Thea Weiss, and what was it about her live and story that connected with you so much?
I was originally commissioned to make a different version of this film for the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies annual Holocaust Remembrance event. The theme for that year was “Creative Response to the Holocaust”. Lotte and her daughter Thea, a well-known artist in Sydney, sprang immediately to mind. The family agreed to participate, and the rest is history.
I feel so lucky that I had the opportunity to meet Lotte and get to her know her a little. Her energy and positive attitude, despite what she endured, will stay with me. I will never forget her resilience, quiet dignity, and enormous strength.
Though there are not many Holocaust Survivors still living there are so many stories about their experiences that are unknown to wider audiences. Did you feel an apprehensions or pressure when you started making My Two Lives knowing that this would be the first time Mrs Weiss story would be shared with an international audience?
I didn’t really think about that to be honest. I made the film to share with a local Jewish audience originally. Johnny and Thea approached me after the event wanting to take the film onto the film festival circuit. It was at that point I became apprehensive but excited as well to see what we could do with the film. We re-cut the film slightly, not wanting to take away from the essence of the original. After Lotte’s passing, the family asked for the memorial service at the synagogue to be filmed. That was very moving for me.
"Be mindful of others, considerate and tolerant because often it is too easy to turn a blind eye to cruelty done to others."
What was the first steps you took in preparation for making My Two Lives and what would you say have been the most important lessons you have taken from this whole experience?
By way of background, I am fortunate to have studied the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, as part of an educator’s seminar, and through my work with the Australian Jewish community for over a decade. During this time I produced annual Holocaust remembrance ceremonies and met some wonderful Holocaust survivors, and their families. I also spent time in the Sydney Jewish Museum library, learning from the museums resident historian Professor Konrad Kwiet, and Tinny, the museums librarian gaining a better understanding of this period in history.
Spending time with Lotte and Thea and getting to know them, and reading, and re-reading her book, was the most valuable part of my research.
Lessons from my experience with making this film include learning how to never give up, and to treat people with kindness, as you never know what they may be going through.
No matter how tough I think my life is, when you think about Holocaust survivors, and consider their resilience, you know you too can get through the tough times.
Is there a quote of Mrs Weiss that has become most salient to you?
“In spite of all my sufferings and the greatest losses a human being can endure, I remain a person with hope. I still have a belief that the majority of people are decent. I hope and pray that there will be peace and harmony amongst the people of the universe”.
Were did your passion for filmmaking and storytelling come from?
My background is theatre. I studied theatre and acting, dance and movement from an early age. I am fascinated by what makes people tick, what drives and motivates them; storytelling then is a natural extension of this for me.
And my love of film making started very early on in my career when I walked onto a television set (in South Africa) and I had a moment of “wow” what kind of magic is this… and I was hooked from them on.
Has your approach to your film projects changed much since you started out?
Each project changes you because you learn something new every time. This influences the way you make a film or think about a storyline. External influences like art, theatre and film also impact your thinking and your creativity.
In recently months there has been a steady increase in antisemitism in places like Europe and the United States. What lessons can we learn from stories and experiences of Holocaust Survivors like Lotte Weiss in combatting antisemitism?
Key lessons for me would include, never forgetting, and taking responsibility to watch and learn from history. Be mindful of others, considerate and tolerant because often it is too easy to turn a blind eye to cruelty done to others. Hate is a negative word and too often used. Hate is what Lotte and others experienced.
Do you have any advice, tips or suggestions you would offer an emerging filmmaker?
Don’t give up and believe in yourself.
And finally, what massage do you want your audiences to take from My Two Lives, Creative Responses to the Holocaust?
Lotte’s message is what I want people to remember. To have hope and to enjoy life and family and to love unconditionally.