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Sonia is an inspiration. Big Sonia Beautifully captures the power of the human spirit & the power we each have with this one life to spread love & positivity, no maTter what hardships we ENCOUNTER.
I saw Big Sonia today and loved it! She is amazing.
This is a must see movie. Very sweet and touching. You will be moved by this in profound ways.
THIS FILM DOES MORE THAN INFORM OR ENTERTAIN. IT TRANSFORMS HEARTS AND DEMONSTRATES HOW LOVE CAN TRIUMPH OVER HATRED - AND IT DOES SO WITH CHARMING STYLE, BEAUTIFUL ART AND MUSIC. WHEN LAUGHTER AND TEARS MIX, YOU CAN WALK AWAY WITH HOPE AND PERHAPS FIND A WAY TO DIG DEEP AND MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR TIME HERE. I KNOW THIS FILM CHANGED ME. AND WHAT AN AMAZING THING FOR A MOVIE TO DO.
An unforgettable film and an extraordinary experience. We are all better for witnessing Big Sonia.
Wonderful movie! An important story told with humor and compassion. Everyone should see this movie and talk about it with family and friends.
Unbelievably touching story that everyone should see, especially our middle/high school students. I was even more fascinated since I live in KCMO too. The movie was put together wonderfully with a mix of somberness and humor. I highly recommended Big Sonia and hope it goes national!
Everyday Angel of History
by James Winchell
There's a joke that we Jews tell one another all over the world:
"How many Jewish grandmothers does it take to screw-in a lightbulb?
"--None! What's the use? I'll just sit here in the dark. . . ."
The humor of this joke derives from the fact that Jewish grandmothers will notoriously go to any length to make sure they're "no trouble," "not in anyone's way," with each tiny lady making precisely zero extraordinary (or even ordinary) demands on other members of the family, all of whose well-being, comfort and continuity are the sole purpose of her existence anyway.
In short, a kind of angel-on-earth.
Leah Warshawski's powerful documentary film Big Sonia (2016) explores the "daily life" of one such earthly, angelic great-grandmother, who dwells among us mortals even as her indomitable spirit leaps off the screen and into the viewer's heart-center.
And it's okay to call her Big Sonia. It's a term of affection applied with loving irony, in part because of her diminutive physical stature. For we learn that Big Sonia, although tiny, is in fact a Very Large Person, with an expansive, radiating aura of strength: she is a great Jewish great-grandmother and, at age 91, a full-time businesswoman who continues to operate her tailoring-and-alteration shop in a now-abandoned mall in Kansas City, Missouri.
Crucially, Big Sonia is a survivor of the Holocaust of 1939-45: Hitler and the Nazi Party's programmatic mass murder of over six million Jews, Roma, homosexuals, persons with disabilities, Jehovah's Witnesses, other minorities, and political prisoners, in a vast system of concentration camps, death factories and forced-labor prisons.
She's a survivor of "genocidal profiling." She survived years in Auschwitz concentration camp, where she was hit in the lung by a stray bullet on the day of liberation. She somehow survived a difficult recovery from that wound, then immigration, then marriage to a fellow camp-survivor and then decades of family life. She has also survived widowhood and now, halfway into the film, she faces eviction from her shop in the desolate mall and must decide whether or not to move it, or to retire.
The co-directors write on a press release: "For a woman who admits that she stays busy 'to keep the dark parts away,' facing retirement dredges up fears she'd long forgot she had, and her traumatic personal past resurfaces. . . . BIG SONIA explores what it means to be a survivor."
There is a shared urgency to her story, and ours. As time and mortality pass by, fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors walk among us. One day soon the last living, speaking survivor of a Nazi concentration camp will no longer draw breath, nor bear witness to her truth.
When that day comes, our species' communal memory will of necessity rely on the best available evidence-of-record: documents, the historical record.
In early spring of 1945, at the moment General Dwight D. Eisenhower first beheld the atrocities visible in the Nazi concentration camps that he visited upon their liberation, he recognized instantaneously the crucial importance of both personal witnessing and the obligatory role of film, and all media, in recording an accurate, unblinking account of the results of Nazi cruelty.
Writing in a letter to General George C. Marshall on April 15, 1945, Eisenhower expressed his concerns in a passage now excerpted on a plaque placed outside the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington: "The things I saw beggar description," he wrote. "I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations to propaganda."
Eisenhower's "deliberately" anti-propagandistic strategy of witnessing has served historical memory in crucial, self-reflective ways.
In that same letter to Marshall, Eisenhower wrote in a wry parenthesis that even the tough-as-leather General George C. Patton could not stomach entering some of the enclosed spaces in the camp at Gotha, where bodies lay putrefying and crawling with vermin. But Ike had consciously resolved beforehand to do so; he then forced himself to go into even the darkest, most foul corners of the extermination camps, and thereby guaranteed the integrity of his own personal act of witnessing.
He also famously ordered local townsfolk from neighboring German villages under armed guard to come on mandatory "guided tours" of the camps.
Most crucially, perhaps, Eisenhower had astutely insisted on the presence of as many film crews, news and still photographers and reporters as he could muster to document both his own and the local villagers' visits--in addition to documenting the raw conditions of the camps themselves, of course. This footage was immediately edited and, as quickly as possible, shown as newsreels in theaters in Allied and liberated countries. Using his power as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe, Eisenhower also directed governments to send elected officials, representative dignitaries and even international celebrities to travel to the camps in order to witness first-hand the reality of Nazi perversion.
Most, if not all, of their visits were documented on film, photo and in print as well.
Consequently, and thanks to the indefatigable efforts of Holocaust survivors, educators, archivists, documentarians and historians, most of us have seen the atrocity films, as documents: those bodies are forever stacked in rows, on film and in collective memory. They are immutable, in memory; subject to interpretation, evaluation, distortion, yes; and even to insane dismissal by crackpot deniers and lunatic neo-Nazis.
But even while the documentary images may be denied or dismissed, as pompous Nazi Herman Goering attempted to do (unsuccessfully, in what may have been the first cry of "Fake News!") during his war-crimes trial at Nuremberg, these images are all the more liable to prove irrefutable for having been faithfully documented and preserved.
So--if there's a rubric called "Films About the Holocaust," and a sub-heading titled "Atrocity Films,"--what might be its opposite?
Let me re-state that: What's the opposite of an "atrocity film" that still qualifies as a film about the Holocaust?
Whatever such a sub-genre might be called, Big Sonia will qualify. You will see no piles of corpses, no charred skeletons yawning out of ovens, in this film.
But rest assured: The true horrors, atrocities and mass graves crowd around each frame of Big Sonia as we watch, but they will remain just out of sight during this particular, and in some ways unique, Holocaust film.
This is why the term denoting Big Sonia's "daily life" deserves quotation marks: it represents an ongoing miracle, an everyday, community-wide colloquy chaired by a pragmatic angel, a down-to-earth festivity based on the radical normalcy of a grandmother's goodness.
Sonia's person stands tall, speaks, walks, smiles and sews. Forever may it be so.
An excellent heartwarming film regarding a holocaust survivor, her life and her family. A must see for all families!
This is an awesome documentary! I highly encourage you to go see it!