Festival Report: Every Face Has a Name
On April 28, 1945, ferries with survivors from the German concentration camps arrive at the harbour of Malmö, Sweden. As the survivors take their first steps in freedom, news teams film them. Now, 70 years later, the survivors see this footage for the first time and recognise themselves. They relive the happiness, confusion and insecurity of that extraordinary day when life began again. With Every Face Has a Name, Director Magnus Gertten continues where Harbour of Hope (2011) left off. Meticulous research led him to the names belonging to some of the otherwise anonymous faces in the April 28, 1945 newsreels. People like Bernhard Kempler, who was 9 years old when he came to Malmö. He, being a Jewish boy, survived the war by dressing up as a girl.
Another face belongs to Elsie Ragusin from New York. She was visiting her grandparents in Italy when she was accused of being a spy and deported to Auschwitz. The crowd welling out on the docks in Malmö on April 28, 1945 was a cross-section of humanity: Norwegian resistance men, Polish mothers with new-born babies, British spies and Jewish survivors. All are united in this moment of liberation. Now, 70 years later, they tell their stories.
Every Face Has a Name is a film about the complex moment of liberation. Scenes identical to those in 1945 are repeated all over the world today. We also meet a group of refugees who managed to reach Sicily in a small fishing boat in July 2014, part of the endless stream of war refugees forced to leave their home
countries. We see them in the news every day. All of them anonymous. Faces without names.
This documentary has a clear-cut humanitarian mission. The people in the archive footage are not just anonymous victims, they are real people with names like all of us. My film is – in an almost ceremonial way – giving back the names to many of the survivors who arrived in Malmö, Sweden on April 28, 1945. To me, this is a film with huge contemporary relevance. Every week via international news media, we see endless streams of war refugees arriving at harbour and border stations. For quite some time I’ve had the idea of comparing the situation in 1945 to the present global war refugee situation. Finding the right harbour was tough, but finally I was lucky. On July 1, 2014, my team and I were present at small Sicilian harbour when close to 600 refugees arrived after a dramatic journey across the Mediterranean. Being there had a great impact on me. If I in any way can change people’s views on the displaced people coming from horrific circumstances all over the world today, then my work has truly accomplished something.
The FIPRESCI Award – Best International Documentary. Presented by The
International Federation of Film Critics at Thessaloniki Documentary Festival,
The Angelos Award, 2015. At Göteborg International Film Festival, 2015.
International Documentary Competition, Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. Minneapolis, USA. April 2015. North American Premiere.
Thessaloniki Documentary Festival. Thessaloniki, Greece. March, 2015.
International Premiere. Tempo Documentary Award Competition, Tempo Documentary Festival. Stockholm, Sweden. March, 2015
The Dragon Award Competition, Göteborg International Film Festival.
Gothenburg, Sweden. January 2015. National Premiere.