City Lights Media // 1984 // 56 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // May 1st, 2008
It takes years to heal some wounds...
...others we keep for generations.
While most documentaries about World War II focus on the impact of Nazi brutality on the millions of innocent civilians who lost their lives and those who survived during the Holocaust, Jack Fisher's short but poignant documentary A Generation Apart looks at the aftereffects of the war in a different way. The film primarily centers on the children of concentration camp survivors, and how the war has shaped their lives. Most importantly, the movie offers an honest portrayal of how the children of Holocaust survivors discuss the tragedy with their parents, and how the wartime horrors indirectly affected their childhoods.
A Generation Apart is a compelling look at several aspects that rarely come up in documentaries about Holocaust survivors, and one of the feature's central messages is that the horrors of the war do not necessarily end with those who directly lived through them. In several ways, the effects of torture and death are often passed on to their children as well, even though they may have been born after the war. Fisher builds his case by discussing these issues with his brothers and parents, capturing several heated conversations that clearly highlight differences of opinions about how relevant the Holocaust is to his family members. What was growing up like for the kids of survivors? Can they ever isolate the impact the Holocaust had on their lives? Do they think their parents did a good job bringing them up? Fisher addresses plenty of important questions, and the answers his interviewees give him are quite simply intelligent, often unexpected and intriguing. But most important of all, they provoke thought.
Fisher also focuses on what it meant for his parents to have their first child. It was a magical gift, his mother says, although raising a kid while suffering the war's lasting impact was not easy. But having a kid brought light to their darkness, she continues, telling her other sons that their eldest brother probably received a whole lot more love than they did. This is also where some of the conversations between Fisher's brothers turn into confrontations. In one of the film's most powerful moments, the eldest brother asks his younger sibling: "Where does the Holocaust come in with you? You never saw it, you never went through it."
To change pace a little bit, Fisher also interviews other survivors and sporadically moves away from the family discussions to let his parents speak a little about the countless details they remember about their lives during the war. The wounds the Holocaust inflicted on them can still be seen in their faces and heard in their voices, which give A Generation Apart an emotional touch and obviously reaffirm the savagery people had to endure in the camps and everywhere else the Nazis ruled. I know this sounds like a lot of material to cover in just 56 minutes, but Fisher does a fabulous job at switching between interviewees and telling his story in an engaging way. The film is literally a family project, with his brother Danny editing and serving as executive producer.
The film was first released in 1984, which explains why the quality of the image looks like, well, the eighties. Nonetheless, the DVD transfer is clean and the picture is clear. The audio is more than satisfying as well, with voiceovers and interviews balanced fairly well. In short, for a documentary film produced in the early eighties, A Generation Apart looks and sounds great.
The bonus material on the disc offers some interesting treats for those of you who desire to dig deeper into the experiences of the director's parents. In "Telling the Next Generation," Alan and his wife Esther recount step by step how they were forced to abandon their home and what it was like to arrive at the concentration camps. It's a compelling interview that proves yet again that the war is a horror that even after many years still haunts everybody who experienced it firsthand. The interview is followed by an incredibly emotional (and recently taped) epilogue, in which Alan Fisher pays tribute to his late wife, talking about how much he misses her and how much he would love for her to be able to spend time with their grandchildren and attend family gatherings. Jack Fisher's feature commentary with his father is an excellent addition to the film because they go into further detail about how the Holocaust has affected their entire family.
A Generation Apart is an important, sincere experience about those who experienced the war and never thought they would survive it, and those who only heard about it but clearly feel its impact on the lives of their parents. Quite simply, it's a powerful film paying tribute to the power of family.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: City Lights Media
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 56 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Director's Commentary with his Father, a Survivor
* Epilogue: Remembering the Past, A Look to the Future