All My Loved Ones

Over the past four years there have been two very good documentaries about the kindertransports, the British organized relocation of some 10,000 endangered Jewish children out of Nazi occupied countries like Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia and into the safety of English foster homes. (Tragically, Jews over the age of 17 were left to their doom.)...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Over the past four years there have been two very good documentaries about the kindertransports, the British organized relocation of some 10,000 endangered Jewish children out of Nazi occupied countries like Germany, Austria, Poland and Czechoslovakia and into the safety of English foster homes. (Tragically, Jews over the age of 17 were left to their doom.) Melissa Hacker's MY KNEES WERE JUMPING (1998) and the Academy Award nominated INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS (2000) are both told from the points-of-view of now-grown kinder saved by the effort, and neither film should be missed. Made for Czech television, this fiction film is based on the recollections of one of those rescued — the mother of the film's director, Matej Minac — but it makes for somewhat less essential viewing. Prague, 1938: Dr. Jacob Silberstein (Josef Abrham) can't believe his luck when Mr. Stein (Czech director Jiri Menzel), owner of the villa that the Silberstein family has been leasing, offers to sell his property for whatever price Jacob cares to name. Like the Silbersteins, Stein is Jewish, and seems in an awful hurry to emigrate to the United States. But Jacob, his wife Irma (Libusef Safrankova), his brother, the renowned concert violinist Samuel Silberstein (Jiri Bartoska), and the rest of the Silbersteins aren't terribly concerned about what's happening elsewhere in Europe, or even at the Czech border. They live very much like the Italian-Jewish family of Vittorio De Sica's THE GARDEN OF THE FINZI-CONTINIS (1972), insulated from the nightmare unfolding around them and oblivious to the warning signs until it's too late. The film is so packed with subplots involving the various Silbersteins that it feels more like the pilot episode of a TV series than a feature film. The real story here — the kindertransport organized by the heroic English stockbroker Nicholas Winton (played by Rupert Graves), who managed to save 669 children — is left for the final half hour, when Samuel desperately tries to convince Jacob and Irma to put their young son, David (Branislaw Holicek), on one of the trains to London. The film is framed with footage taken from a 1998 BBC talk show during which the real-life Winton is reunited with those whose lives he saved and who, unbeknownst to him, fill the studio audience. This final moment of Minac's film is a powerful tribute to Winton's heroism and the magnitude of his achievement, easily eclipsing the 90 minutes that precede it. (In Czech, with English subtitles.)

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