Monday, October 25, 2010

Celebrating an Auschwitz Birthday

The second feature-length documentary made by Quebec filmmaker Carl Leblanc seems destined to make a big impact in the United States. Running 85 minutes, The Heart of Auschwitz traces the journey made by Leblanc to track down a dozen and half women who risked their lives in the German concentration camp by signing a December 12th, 1944 heart-shaped birthday card for a prisoner named Fania.

This unusual, life-affirming Holocaust memento is housed at the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center, where Leblanc first came across it in 1998. In between his initial encounter with the birthday card and the premiere of his movie on Sunday, October 24th at the Festival du Nouveau Cinema, Leblanc made the 2004 feature documentary The Hostage, about the 1970 kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross by the FLQ. He and partner Louis Cyr have also collaborated on many short-form non-fiction TV offerings.

The first part of the Auschwitz journey undertaken by Leblanc was easy. The recipient of the 1944 birthday card, Fania Fanier, was in fact the person who had originally donated it to the Montreal museum. But as far as if, when and how successful Leblanc was in tracking down some of the card's original 19 signatories, all part of the same work detail at a Union Metalwerke ammunition and detonators factory, audiences will have to wait until they get a chance to watch the film.

Leblanc seems to have been lastingly inspired by his Auschwitz chronicle. After years of making documentaries, he is now working on his first fictional screenplay, set in a small Quebec town on the eve of the ascension to power in 1976 of the separatist movement the Parti Quebecois. His current documentary is scheduled for a second screening Montreal next month as well as festivals in Quebec City and Paris.

[The Heart of Auschwitz]

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