The Holocaust had formed an integral part of Chantal Akerman’s lived experience, artistic voice, and being, and it was with Dis-Moi – also referred to as Aujourd’hui, Dis-Moi – that she confronted this devastating subject for the first time in her cinema. Made as part of a series on “Grandmothers” commissioned by French TV, this delicate, nuanced, melancholic, profoundly affecting and surprisingly powerful work – alternately heart-warming and heart-breaking, winsome and bleak, unassuming and eloquent – reiterated her prowess at capturing closed spaces (which she’d displayed in her marvellous silent docu Hotel Monterey) and her propensity for extracting broader personal meanings, feminist subtexts and political contexts through conversational voices (which she’d so magnificently evoked in her masterful essay film News from Home). She met and interviewed three elderly Jewish women in their Paris flats – packed with charming curios amidst an air of loneliness – who faced horrors, irreparable personal loss and forced exiles on account of Nazi occupations during the “Shoah”. And yet – perhaps on account of the passage of time – they shared their memories of their families and days of growing up with a mix of longing, tenderness, equanimity and poignant reconciliation, while coaxing Akerman with grandmotherly love to have the cakes, cookies and coffees if she wants hear their stories. Their digressive oral histories were juxtaposed with the lilting voice of Akerman’s mother Natalia – her letters formed a key strand in the aforementioned essay film and she’d be the central subject in her final film No Home Movie – who, like these women, was a Holocaust survivor (nearly everyone in her family was murdered in the Auschwitz death camps), and was trapped in memories of her idyllic closely-knit world before the Final Solution.
Director: Chantal Akerman
Genre: Documentary/Holocaust Film