Three Minutes: A Lengthening

By Joanna Langfield

This quiet yet profound documentary stands not only as a heartbreaking reflection on the Holocaust, but also a testament to the power of film, even those little home movies so many of us have tucked away in a closet.

Bianca Stigler opens her effectively brief piece with the three minutes of film a man named David Kurtz shot in a Jewish town in Poland. The year was 1938. We see crowds of animated men and women, children, too, excited to be photographed. We know what’s coming. But, of course, they do not. And it is, as it should be, gutting to look at those faces and hear in Helena Bonham Carter’s narration the fact that very very few of them made it through the upcoming war.

But this telling of their story becomes even richer in that this film doesn’t just aim to be “another Holocaust remembrance”. The narrative, which includes tantalizing audio clips, is also very much about the process of how these three minutes of home movies were found, preserved, and used as historical archives. That casual usage of a somewhat newfound gimmick commits to account a day in the life of a vivid community whose members were obliterated. The fact that we get to see them, real people who joked at or shied away from the camera, makes them all the more real to us. And it should make their murders all the more horrifying.