Tracing the Light, documentary

This brief documentary traces the creative and historical forces behind Donna Blue Lachman's creation of Tracing the Light, a play about an internment camp in wartime Prague.

00:01Copy video clip URL Title cards introduce _Chasing the Light,_ a play by Donna Blue Lachman, filmed here as part of a documentary by Rana Segal.

00:20Copy video clip URL The film opens on Friedl, played by Donna Blue Lachman, arranging various items into a bag. “Hitler has cordially invited me to Terezin.” Friedl then says that she is packing arts supplies to go to this place, which was a sort of holding place for the artistic elite being detained by the Nazis. While that may sound positive, the town was actually home to just as much death as was seen elsewhere within the Nazi regime.

01:46Copy video clip URL Friedl introduces herself as Frederica to a group of young people, saying that they were all there for the same reason: insanity. Lachman explains that the real Freidl, Friedl Brandeis, was a designer studied in the Bauhaus tradition and who was responsible for some excellent work.

02:45Copy video clip URL Friedl teaches the children to do wood tracing of the floor below their feet. She instructs them to draw whatever it was that they saw in their tracings.

04:10Copy video clip URL Lachman explains that in preparing for the show, she travelled to Prague and to Terezin. It was there that she encountered one of Friedl’s actual students, one of only a hundred or so of the fifteen thousand children who came through Terezin.

05:45Copy video clip URL In interviews, the children who played characters in the play explain how it impacted their view and understanding of the holocaust and the history surrounding it.

07:40Copy video clip URL In clips from the show, one of the child character delivers a stirring portrayal of a German Jew—Rudy—who did not believe he belonged in Terezin. Lachman explains that this was quite common at the time. She then moves to explaining another of the characters she wrote for the play, this one an animated and enthralling young child.

10:00Copy video clip URL “A lot of the younger kids didn’t really see all of the hell around there,” Lachman says about Terezin. Lachman says that much of that is attributable to Friedl.

11:01Copy video clip URL Lachman then says that it was the playwright in her which lead her to kill off several children quite early in the play.

12:18Copy video clip URL Lachman then discusses one child who arrives at Terezin so traumatized that she cannot even speak when she arrives.

13:12Copy video clip URL Lachman then discusses Petka, based on Peter Ginz. The child who plays Petka then speaks about the lullaby which he plays on the violin in the play.

14:33Copy video clip URL In a scene from the play, Friedl interrogates Marika and gets her to admit that she’s being arrested and removed from Terezin.

15:27Copy video clip URL Lachman then turns the discussion to the character Helena and how her parents left her when they fled to Palestine. She speaks about the common occurrence of parents doing this, with the hope that the children would rejoin them later. The SS, however, would block those children from traveling to Palestine.

16:13Copy video clip URL After a quick excerpt from one scene, the actress behind the character Helena speaks about the development which she sees Helena go through during the play.

16:50Copy video clip URL The character Eva is next in the discussion, and Lachman speaks about a particular scene—“eating radishes”—and how it to helped her understand the character.

18:05Copy video clip URL The actor behind Eva also speaks about her character.

18:13Copy video clip URL Friedl delivers a brief monologue to the audience and then speaks about the Golem of Prague, saying that the children should deliver a play about the golem. In the play, it’s this play-within-a-play that drives the “mysterious Red Cross” away from Terezin.

19:52Copy video clip URL Lachman explains that the Red Cross had a chance to truly expose what was happening in Terezin, and that their negligence allowed the SS to wipe out most of the people living in Terezin before the war ended.

20:58Copy video clip URL The actor who played Petka speaks about a moment when the gravity of what happened to the real children really struck him.

21:28Copy video clip URL In another scene, the children challenge Friedl to explain why she has volunteered to take a transport along with all of them; she says that she just wants to go with them.

22:17Copy video clip URL Lachman explains that a big motivation of hers in writing the play was to illustrate the healing powers of art and love.

22:28Copy video clip URL In a dimly-lit scene, Friedl speaks about the power of a small amount of light in illuminating a large space. She asks the children to sign and date their drawings: October 6th, 1944. The lights then fade entirely.

23:38Copy video clip URL A title card dedicates the film to “Friedl and the Children of Terezin.” The credits play, crediting the same writer and director as at the beginning, as well as all of the musicians, actors, cameramen, editors, designers, and inspirations for the piece.

24:13Copy video clip URL Film ends.

 

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