three minutes
5/5 - (2 votes)

πŸ‘‰Although photographs are among the most useful tools we have for reminding us that the recent past was populated by living people like us, they have their limits. Moving images, the ones most of us now take so casually, with the miniature computers we carry in our pockets, bring us even closer to understanding what the lives of our ancestors were like. That’s why Bianca Stigter’s documentary debut Three Minutes: A Lengthening moves so quietly.

πŸ‘‰The film centers on a Jewish community in Nasielsk, Poland, in 1938, captured on camera by David Kurtz, who had emigrated from Poland as a child and was visiting from his home in the United States at the time. This three-minute film shows the city’s inhabitants going about their daily business, though many of them are fascinated by Kurtz’s 16mm camera. Children, in particular, gather around the amateur filmmaker, in some cases running to follow his camera’s gaze. The novelty of a movie camera is impossible to resist.

πŸ‘‰In the face of this vibrant record of real life, what is almost impossible to comprehend is that in just a few years, nearly every person in this film will have been killed in the Holocaust. Stigter took this footage, which was discovered by Kurtz’s grandson, Glenn Kurtz, in 2009, and expanded it into a visual essay, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, exploring the ways moving images can bring the past into the present, connecting us. with human beings whose time on Earth was brutally cut short.

πŸ‘‰The footage captures the Jewish inhabitants of Nasielsk, Poland, before most of them perished in the Holocaust.

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πŸ‘‰Stigter was inspired to make this film after reading Glenn Kurtz’s 2014 book, Three Minutes in Poland, and after seeing David Kurtz’s footage on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website. (Stigter is married to filmmaker and video artist Steve McQueen, and has produced several of his films. McQueen is one of the producers of Three Minutes: A Stretch.) He begins by presenting the original three minutes of Kurtz footage in its entirety, but even those few minutes are almost too much to absorb in one sitting. The rest of his film allows us to focus on specific detailsβ€”the lions of Judah that adorn the doors of the town synagogue, the sign above the grocery store, whose almost illegible letters gradually become a happily solved mysteryβ€”that enhance our understanding of life. in this small town. The film also details, in voice-over, the horrors that befell the city’s Jewish citizens approximately one year after this footage was captured.

πŸ‘‰But if Stigter’s film is sometimes somber, it is more often sadly poetic. Much of Kurtz’s footage is in color, and although it has faded over time, it is still remarkably vivid. Does it take us back in time or momentarily transport the people of Nasielsk to our world? That’s hard to say, but either way, Stigter’s movie opens a portal between two eras. The people in this movie, most of them long dead, aren’t ghosts, they’re neighbors. And although they walk among us for only a few minutes, their presence is equally indelible.

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