Living with Memories

Ella Blumenthal: I am Here

Director: Jordy Sank

This is a Feature Length Documentary and is available online at the Encounters: South African International Documentary Film Festival from Thursday 10th June until Sunday 20th June 2021 – https://www.encounters.co.za/ #Virtuallyeverywhere – https://www.encounters.co.za/film/i-am-here/ and at select physical venues in Johannesburg and Cape Town.

After his South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) nomination for best short documentary The Locket in 2017, SA documentary film director Jordy Sank tackles a fascinating subject, the horrific memories of a still living holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal in his directorial debut feature length documentary Ella Blumenthal: I am Here, which was part of the official selection at the 2021 Miami Jewish Film Festival https://miamijewishfilmfestival.org/ and winning the Audience Award at the 2021 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival https://www.ajff.org/film/i-am-here and now is available to watch online at the Encounters South African Documentary Film Festival.

In a plush apartment in Seapoint in Cape Town, South Africa, Holocaust survivor Ella Blumenthal celebrates her 98th birthday surrounded by her children and grandchildren. During this auspicious occasion, Ella Blumenthal reveals the secret of her horrific past as a Holocaust survivor.

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1921, Ella Blumenthal was 18 when the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939 igniting World War II. Her and her family were immediately transferred to the Warsaw ghetto until it burnt down. Ella and her niece Roma were then transferred to various concentration camps , while her survival skills were paramount she went onto survive both Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz concentration camp where eventually n 1945, World War II ended and the Holocaust survivors were freed by the Allied troops.

Director Jordy Sank films his subject matter with a compassionate gaze from Ella walking briskly on the Seapoint promenade to her emotional retelling of her horrific experiences of being a prisoner of some of the most notorious concentration camps of World War II at her 98th birthday celebration in 2019, surrounded by friends, children and grandchildren, educating them about the past.

Perceptively and rather cleverly, the flashbacks to the concentration camp horrors are told in a strategic combination of documentary news reel and beautiful animation provided by Greg Bakker, giving the documentary a palatable and heart-warming tone.

Impressively it is the shot of the 98 year old great grandmother swimming in a heated pool with the magnificent skyline of Cape Town in the background as her voice over describes the relief at being rescued by the allied troops and being brought to a camp with well-made up beds and running water, basic necessities which we nowadays take for granted.

Ella Blumenthal: I am Here is a captivating and brilliantly shot documentary about an extraordinary woman, a 98 year old Jewish woman who came to South Africa to make a new life and it offers a message of hope and forgiveness as she recalls how her and her grandson visited Auschwitz in 2004 to make peace with the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. Ella’s message is simple, love everyone and be grateful to be alive.

This is an amazing documentary, skilfully educating a new generation about the survivors of the Holocaust and a formidable woman who has learnt to live life through memories as most of her family from Poland were killed during World War II. With the exception of her niece who now lives in New York, Ella Blumenthal is one of the few survivors of a generation that got brutally obliterated by pure hatred and rampant Anti-Semitism.  

Highly recommended viewing and an important documentary to watch, Ella Blumenthal: I am Here gets a documentary film rating of 8 out of 10. Catch this insightful documentary online at the Encounters Film Festival –

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