Undergraduate students Hermione Oldham and Mia Frank win film competion

Congratulations to Hermione Oldham and Mia Frank for winning the first Cultural Institute Short Film Prize for a film that drew on Dr Matthew Boswell Virtual Holocaust Memory research project. Click on the still below to view their winning entry.

At an award ceremony on Monday 24 April, Hermione and Mia gave the following talk about the project:

HO: As a young person who has lived a secure life it is difficult to imagine what it must be like to face the kind of decision my forebears had to make for themselves and their children. In an age of fake news and people who should know better citing the Holocaust inappropriately it seems to me more important than ever to preserve the memories of Holocaust survivors.

I was therefore drawn to the project dealing with Virtual Holocaust Memory to provide both a lasting warning of what humans can do to each other and as a testament to teach future generations how the human spirit can rise above hardship and terrible loss and remain a beacon of hope for us all.

MF: This project stood out to me as a chance to make something important. Preserving holocaust memory through projects like this ensure that those who suffered gravely are remembered and honoured. It also helps prevent the repetition of history, by warning future generations that facist, racist and radicle beliefs can only cause harm. As a filmmaker, I was interested in creating something that encapsulated the emotions of the holocaust survivors, and I hope that the film moves you in some way.

HO: My idea was partly inspired by an article in the Sunday Times Magazine about Holocaust Memorial Day. It contained the recent testimony of a survivor Susie Lind now aged 92 who had never told her story before. It made me reflect on an image of the handkerchief she mentions as all that was left of her family. My visual ideas are based around this theme and I contacted the Sunday Times reporter Richard Brookes about talking to Susie Lind and was then put in touch with the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation set up by the Prime Minister who were kind enough to give me access to extracts of survivor testimony from both Susie Lind herself and others. Those are the words of the survivors that you will hear and their message they share to future generations.

I worked with Mia on how we understood these ideas and one of the problems we encountered was trying to find a handkerchief as nobody seems to sell them these days. Even my grandmother whose hands feature in the opening sequence no longer possessed a lace handkerchief – a symbol of how times change maybe. It took over thirty takes for my grandmother to light the match – so I did wonder if we would ever get past the opening scene! The film contains many references to Jewish mourning practices, In the opening sequence you will hear the mourner’s Kaddish, the traditional Jewish Prayer recited in memory of those who have passed away as the Yahrzeit memorial candle is lit.

MF: The digital process of overlaying the images of the kinder transport and the Holocaust onto the handkerchief was time consuming, but essential, as it incorporated Matthew Boswell’s research and the idea of interactive holograms into the film. We though that a simple approach would be most affective, and achieved this by shooting in quiet locations, with basic lighting setups and editing at a pace that matched the atmosphere of the film. Contrasting sadness and darkness with light and hope is one theme I wanted to explore in film. We decided that a good way to carry this out was by making the shots black and white in post-production, which also meant the footage matched the archival images we used.

HO: The final scene, which involved the placing of the stones in memory of those who had died, took us into the Yorkshire Dales. As the commentary states the Jewish tradition of placing stones are to preserve the memory of those who perished and yet whose stories live on through us. The Holocaust not only lost six million Jews and millions of others but also countless millions who never came to be. That is why those of us who are here need to make sure that we never ever forget. By coincidence today is Yom HaShoah or Holocaust remembrance day, the day every year that Jews who are living around the world commemorate those lost in the Shoah.

Finally, I would like to thank my co-producer and film maker Mia as well as Kyle Withington for his support throughout. Also, Matt Boswell and of course most importantly to the survivors themselves. We hope you appreciate our film and the serious message it contains.