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Inside Hana's Suitcase - Movie Review - 2011

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Inside Hana's Suitcase - Movie Review - 2011

Inside Hana's Suitcase Poster Art

Menemsha Films

Inside Hana's Story

Fumiko Ishioka, a curator at the Tokyo Holocaust Resource Center, was so curious about the a battered suitcase she received to be put on display with the museum's collection, she decided she must find out more about its owner, whose name was painted in white letters on the suitcase's cover: Hana.

Ishioka discovered that Hana Brady was a young and vivacious Jewish girl who'd been transported from her parents' home in Prague to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz, where she'd perished.

As Ishioka's research into Hana's life and circumstances deepened, she began sharing the story with Japanese children, as a lesson to teach them about tolerance and having respect for other cultures.

Eventually, Hana's story was written by Karen Levine, and became a best worldwide best seller entitled Hana's Suitcase.

Levine's book is the primary resource upon which filmmaker Larry Weinstein bases his documentary film.

Creating a Strong Presence of Hana On Screen

Using archival footage and reenactments, Weinstein presents the charming, bright, lively Hana when she was living happily with her parents and brother, George. Those happy days ended abruptly when Hana's parents were taken away, and Hana and George went to live with an aunt and uncle -- until they, too, were ordered to report to be transported to Auschwitz.

George, who survived the camp and is now a senior citizen, is interviewed extensively in the film, providing a sad and infuriating description of living conditions at Auschwitz. He tells of a secret art class that Hana, who loved to draw, participated in. It was her solace and joy.

George speaks about the guilt he feels about having survived his beloved Hana, about his not having been able to save her. He meets with children, speaks with adults, constantly letting audiences of people know what happened. He is keeping the stories of his lost loved ones alive.

Interwoven with the interviews with George and other survivors who had known and loved Hana, and the archival footage and photographs, reenactments and animation that recreate the times and give Hana such a strong presence on screen, Weinstein presents scenes of Ishioka working with the battered suitcase, presenting it and Hana's story to school age children, and engaging them in serious discussions about what had happened to Hana, what she'd experienced and the lessons to be learned from the delightful girl who died before she had a chance to experience much of life's goodness.

Essential Teachings

It is clear from the comments they make int the film that the children get the message.

Weinstein's style is neither demonstrative nor sentimental, yet this documentary is so emotionally engaging -- so heart wrenching -- it's almost difficult to watch. However, the film's sensitive, sensible approach to its painful subject, and its well-framed and gentle teachings for children -- for all of us, really -- are presented with such compassion, you really can't stop watching it.

It is tremendously important that Hana Brady's story, like that of Anne Frank, be told widely. This is an important documentary that can create a change for the better in human attitudes and behavior. It must be widely seen.If You Like This Film, You May Also Like:

Film Details:

  • Title: Inside Hana's Suitcase
  • Director: Larry Weinstein
  • Release Date: April 18, 2012
  • Running Time: 88 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location: Tokyo, Germany, Czech Republic
  • Language: English, Japanese and Czech, with English Subtitles
  • Production Companies: In Film Praha, Rhombus Media
  • Distribution Company: Menemsha Films
  • Trailer

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