By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
Opening in NYC and LA on September 15, documentary film Red Trees tells the powerful and poignant story of Holocaust survivor Alfred Willer as he and his filmmaker daughter Marina take audiences through their family history as Jews living in Czechoslovakia during Germany’s occupation during World War II. Marina and her brother Marcel take their father back to Europe for the first time in decades after living in Brazil since the war ended. What follows is a beautiful, eloquent, and poetic journey into the life of a man and family who witnessed such horrible atrocities and tragedies under the German regime, but still managed to survive and appreciate the beauty that the world does have to offer.
Born and raised in Europe, Alfred Willer and his family would end up in Prague, Czechoslovakia while he was still a child. Willer and his parents would witness the horrible changes that the beautiful country would undergo as the Nazis would pillage and destroy all that the Jewish people loved and for which they worked so hard. Willer and his grown-up children revisit the buildings and locales where he lived, where his father worked, and where Jewish people where persecuted for their faith and culture–places where the buildings crumbled, people were killed and costly battles were fought. Despite Willer’s color blindness, he still managed to find beauty in the landscape and architecture of his home which would further influence him to pursue a career in architecture as an adult in Brazil.
Directed by Alfred’s daughter, Marina Willer, Red Trees is a lyrically fluid, visually gorgeous, and heartbreaking documentary which gives the Holocaust and World War II experiences a very personal perspective from a loving and seemingly humble man who managed to still appreciate the beauty of the world and its people, despite his traumatic and harrowing experiences during his childhood. The film features narration by Alfred, Marina and Marcelo Willer, along with additional English narration by Tim Piggot Smith who gives Alfred Willer’s stories an added elegance and potency. The film has some of the most gorgeous cinematography by César Charlone (City of God) who is able to capture the stunning beauty that both Czechoslovakia and Brazil have to offer in juxtaposition to the painful scarring and destruction caused by what is probably the worst war in human history so far.
I must highly recommend this incredible and gorgeous film for those who enjoy historical documentaries that offer a more intimate perspective. Red Trees opens on Friday, September 15 in NY (at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas & Quad Cinema) and in LA (at Laemmle Royal, Laemmle Town Center in Encino, CA & Regal Westpark in Irvine, CA), followed by select cities nationwide.