Inside Hana's Suitcase (2012)
The delivery of a battered suitcase to Fumiko Ishioka at the Tokyo Holocaust Museum begins the true-life mystery that became the subject of Karen Levineʼs best-selling book Hanaʼs Suitcase. The suitcase came from the Auschwitz Museum and had Hana Bradyʼs name painted on it. Larry Weinsteinʼs masterful film follows Fumikoʼs search to discover the details of Hanaʼs life, which leads to the discovery of her brother George in Toronto. As small children they had been sent to Thereisenstadt for being Jewish after the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939. A superb musical score by Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk, coupled with dramatic reenactments stunningly shot by Horst Zeidler, catches us by the heart to invoke the tragedy of the times. The voices of children from Japan, Canada, and the Czech Republic telling Hanaʼs story are woven around the drama, along with Georgeʼs memories and Fumikoʼs quest, to create a film of astonishing power and hope. -- (C) Official Site … More
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Critics Consensus: The Lucky One Can't Catch a Break
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Critic Reviews for Inside Hana's Suitcase
Documentary about young children learning the horrors of the Holocaust feels like an elaborate study aid.
It would be odd not to feel something about Hana and the Brady family, but "Inside Hana's Suitcase" feels more like a historical teaching aid than like a great movie.
A documentary saga of heartbreaking concentration-camp horrors, Inside Hana's Suitcase attempts to preserve Holocaust memories through frustratingly fractured means.
A film relating a story of the Holocaust is destined to provoke a number of adjectives, but "cloying" shouldn't be one of them.
In the end, what makes "Inside Hana's Suitcase'' so powerful is the most traditional technique of all: authentic and eloquent storytelling by memorable characters.
The real buoyancy comes from watching the students learn about both the dangers of hatred and the capacity of the human spirit to endure.
Inside Hana's Suitcase is not entirely without schmaltz, but it tells a deeply moving story without ever being maudlin or manipulative.
What always feels genuine, movingly so, are the faces of the school children caught up in their account of the unforgotten past.
Mixing documentary and dramatic elements to consistently intelligent effect, Inside Hana's Suitcase is also uncommonly beautiful, thanks to the cinematography by Horst Zeidler and the richly textured musical score by Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk.
Audience Reviews for Inside Hana's Suitcase
Imagine the best show and tell ever and you will have "Inside Hana's Suitcase" which starts when Fumiko Ishioka, an elementary school teacher in Japan, is loaned some artifacts from the Holocaust Museum. One of them is a suitcase once belonging to Hana Brady who was 11 when she was sent to a concentration camp. The curiosity of Fumiko's students leads her on a quest that will eventually bring her to the Czech Republic and Hana's surviving brother, George.
As heartfelt as this documentary is, I think I might not exactly be the right audience for it, as it seems aimed mostly to children, who mostly narrate, in order to teach them about tolerance and the Holocaust, bringing it to a level they can understand without scarring them for life. Regardless of the audience, the dramatizations work better in recreating life in the concentration camps than before the war. Now, if only the documentary had been structured better, like maybe pulling a "Searching for Sugar Man" in following Fumiko first, and letting the suspense build, before filling in the rest of the story.
I saw this with Portia, a friend of mine, at the Victoria Film Festival a last year and have been itching to let people know about this fantastic film.
The story of Hana Brady is one that transcends most other documentaries I've seen based on its simplicity and classic story-telling style. The stories of Hana, killed in Auschwitz as a girl, and her brother George are intertwined with that of Fumiko Ishioka, a Japanese school teacher who comes to possess Hana's suitcase. Driven by curiosity, she not only discovers Hana's fate, but also that of George's, who lives in Toronto. He visits her and her class, The Small Wings, to see and touch one of the most precious of Hana's belongings. This blending of past and present is captured in an interesting way, combining both candid interviews with fictional flashbacks.
George's honesty and Fumiko's tireless drive are really captured well, as well as giving the audience an unprecedented glimpse into the life of a victim of the Nazis. From the magic tricks their father used to perform to the bottle full of a young girl's frustrations buried in the back yard, the film is incredibly intimate. Yet at the same time, it takes a global scale when Hana's story travels beyond the Brady's home in the Czech Republic to Japan to Canada and all across Europe. It's a tragic story, to be sure, but it's full of hope and loving memory. The music, I felt, really reflected all those tones, though it could be a bit overwhelming in certain scenes.
The message comes through loud and clear: this must never happen again. Because Hana's story is only one of millions.
What really made this film come alive for me was that after the screening, Larry Weinstein, the director, introduced us to George and his daughter, who had attended the premiere. I must admit, seeing him there after being given such a penetrating look into his suffering and his family, I broke down in tears, like many others. It was a complex mix of deep respect, gratitude, and pride in his courage. And it's a feeling I won't forget. I can only hope that Hana's and George's story will continue to touch lives as it has mine.
EDIT: A comment from Mr. Weinstein himself! "What a nice review... thank you. Very few people have seen this film, so the audience reaction in Victoria was very meaningful to me (as was the documentary award that it won there). And so your comments are very much appreciated. LW"
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