Released yesterday in New York at Cinema Village, Back to Fatherland is a documentary focusing on grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, who have moved to Germany and Austria. There is also a discussion in the film about the challenges and issues Israel, Germany and Austria have with each other. We asked the filmmakers Kat Rohrer and Gil Levanon a few questions about their documentary. You can read our questions and their answers, below.
CYInterview: Do you feel like you captured the issues that the countries of Israel, Austria and Germany still have with each other?
Gil Levanon: The historical connection and conflict between these three countries is so complex and deep that it is impossible to capture in just one film, but we do feel that we were able to highlight and share the issues that effect [sic] the third generations in these countries today and hope we were able to highlight some options of moving forward.
Kat Rohrer: The film shows nuances of the relationship between these countries and its people that we don’t often get to explore, think about and let alone discuss with each other, but really need to in order to deal with the history that has forever connected them.
CYInterview: Do you think it’s safe for a Jewish person to live in Germany or Austria?
Gil Levanon: Unfortunately, anti-Semitism has always been a part of our reality and may always be. At the moment, we feel anti-Semitism rising all-round the globe and not “just “in Austria and or Germany. The recent events in the US, Poland or Hungary show that we cannot lose sight of this issue and should always be vigilant and aware. Germany and Austria are not more extreme than anywhere else in the world at the moment.
CYInterview: What was the main message you wanted to capture in Back to Fatherland?
Gil Levanon: Something I personally realized, and never gave much thought to before making the movie, was that the decedents of Nazis may also be carrying a burden. Not the same burden as decedents of Holocaust survivors but a burden of guilt, sense of responsibility and shame. Making the movie together with Kat and meeting other third generation Austrians and Germans, who themselves had nothing to do with the actions of their grandparents, made me more open to having these conversations, to listening and to looking beyond my own pain and anger and focus on the things that connect us.
Kat Rohrer: For me it was important to go beyond the stereotypes, beyond the stereotype of a “Jew,” an “Israeli,” an “Austrian,” a “German,” and show that there are grandchildren and grandparents, who now live under very different circumstances and who are trying to navigate their life within these long shadows of history. In addition, that there are young people who are trying to find their way in this globalized world without being held back by their history, while still honoring their roots.
Back to Fatherland will open in Los Angeles on June 28th at the Laemmle Music Hall.
Learn more about Back to Fatherland clicking here.