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"The Maelstrom: A Family Chronicle" + "Respite" (Holocaust: Affect and Absence Series)

April 12, 2017
07:30 PM - 09:30 PM
Dryden Theatre, George Eastman Museum, 900 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14607

The Maelstrom: A Family Chronicle

(Péter Forgács, Netherlands 1997, 60 min., digital, Dutch w/subtitles)

The Maelstrom makes extraordinarily artful use of a considerable cache of home movies shot in the Netherlands before and during World War II. Information is conveyed through subtitles and a soundtrack of period sound—mostly radio broadcasts—and brooding, disturbing jazz by Tibor Szemző. We see a Jewish family first living unknowingly in the shadow of the Holocaust and then trying to cope with it, still unaware of what it will finally mean. A shot of the film’s photographer, Max Peereboom, and his family cheerfully sewing and doing general preparation for a trip to a “work camp”—when their destination was the nightmare of Auschwitz—adds a devastating dimension to our understanding that no Hollywood movie, no other documentary, has been able to provide.


(Aufschub, Harun Farocki, Germany/Netherlands 2007, 39 min., digital)

Respite consists of silent black-and-white films shot at Westerbork, a Dutch refugee camp established in 1939 for Jews fleeing Germany. In 1942, after the occupation of Holland, its function was reversed by the Nazis and it became a “transit camp.” In 1944, the camp commander commissioned a film, shot by a prisoner, photographer Rudolf Breslauer.

About the "Holocaust: Affect and Absence" Film Series

All depictions of the Holocaust grapple with a central question: how does one represent the unrepresentable? The continuous stream of new films about the Holocaust, more than seventy years after the end of World War II, attests to both the difficulties and the importance of this problem. The films selected for this series span these decades and challenge us to think about how much is said through silence and fraught emotional connections between the films and their audiences. This program of documentaries ranges from some of the first filmic reflections of the atrocities in the camps in Billy Wilder’s Death Mills (1945) and Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (1956), to a search for the lost East European Jewish communities of Ruth Beckermann’s family members before WWII in her film Paper Bridge (1987), to Chantal Akerman’s moving final film about her relationship to her mother and their relationship to her mother’s past in No Home Movie (2015). The films all reflect on questions of responsibility, violence, and humanity in ways that resonate in the present day, thus creating compelling albeit complicated relationships between past and present.

This series is a collaboration between the George Eastman Museum, the JCC Ames Amzalak Rochester Jewish Film Festival, and the University of Rochester. It is made possible in part by the University of Rochester’s German Program, Film and Media Studies Program, and Center for Jewish Studies.

$6 members
$8 nonmembers
$4 students with ID

Event page (GEM)
Series poster (PDF)

Category: Film Screenings