A Generation Apart
Studio: City Lights Home Entertainment
US Rating: Not Rated
Film Length: 56 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1:33.1
Audio: English Dolby Surround
Subtitles: Optional English
The Film - out of
The holocaust was a devastation perpetrated on an entire generation. In the more than half century since the heinous treatment of the Jewish people at the hands of Hitler’s Nazi’s were discovered by allied troops during World War II, the horrendous and gruesome details of their systematic slaughter have been researched, explored and shared with a world who has reeled at the horror of it all. I have seen my fair share of documentaries on the awful events and, like the rest of the world, wept at the senseless brutality of it all while watching Steven Spielberg’s haunting Schindler’s List.
In 1983, A Generation Apart was released. This is a small and personal documentation of one family’s impact felt from the effects of the holocaust rippling through the lives of the survivor’s children and grandchildren. The documentary is an intimate series of conversations between Alan and Esther Fisher, survivors from concentration camps who made it to refugee camps in Cyprus where they met and were soon married. Together they moved to Israel before making their way to the United States and settling down in Brooklyn.
They raised three sons. The middle child, Jack, had long considered the question of what impact or influence the terrible experiences of their parents had on them. With that question came this documentary. Serving as co-producer and director, he talks with his brothers and his parents about the events and what it has brought to the family dynamic. While Jack begins by asking questions that would seem to want to have his family easily and quickly attribute where and who they are now with what their parents experienced in those concentration camps, what we see is a shifting or rather an opening up to the greater complexities of what it all means.
These three boys grew up without grandparents, aunts and uncles, so many of which were murdered in the gas chambers, crematoriums or were starved or worked to death and that has no doubt affected them. But how and to what extent is the perpetual question that accompanies the fascinating conversations that take place. Close and personal, this documentary is unusual in its frankness and touching because of its unpolished and reflective, introspective tone.
Jack also speaks with a close friend and her mother, also a survivor, about the experience and toll upon them that the unimaginable events have taken. In one moving moment, his friend’s mother tells the story of a boy on a train, who only knew the harsh life in the Getto. The gravity of the millions upon millions of lives taken is never more apparent and never more real than when hearing of this boy. One story of one life becomes the reminder that every life taken had a story, a wealth of experience whether from the very young or the very old, extinguished relentlessly.
A Generation Apart is deeply fascinating and deeply touching. It is an honest conversation about the influence that the generation lost to Hitler’s pure evil wrought. With soft narration, disagreement and debate throughout, it renders the heartbreaking subject very real for us, the viewer.
Presented in its original full frame aspect ratio, 1.33:1, the image appears to have been untouched since the day it was recorded. The image crackles and pops with dust and debris, appearing like some old 8mm reel being projected on the wall inside a basement. The image is just terrible but I have to say, once the conversations begin, you feel like you are watching some old family movies and that in a sense, adds to the intimacy of the experience. The documentary is powerful regardless of how much the image resembles the poorest quality VHS, but be warned, the image really is that bad and really should have some amount of restoration performed on it.
The Dolby surround audio of A Generation Apart is actually reasonably good, especially when compared to the quality of the image. The sympathetic music sounds appropriate and since this is almost exclusively a dialogue driven piece, the center channel does most of the work and sounds okay. A little muffled at times with the narration lacking the presence and warmth normally associated with documentaries dealing with serious and sad subject matter, it is overall acceptable.
Director’s Commentary with his Father, A Survivor – This is an interesting family dynamic, continued here in the commentary track. The father and son reflect on the directness of the conversations and spend time on the eldest of the three boys, Joe, who did not feel the same as Jack, the director. It becomes a further exploration of the effects and how each member of the family understands, recognizes and deals with it.
Telling The Next Generation – A Grandson’s Interview - (10:07) – Filmed by their grandson, Mr. and Mrs. Fisher share more stories from their past, reflecting on terrifying days as they sit in a sunny garden on a bench. The use of choppy slow motion is off-putting and unnecessary but the stories shared by the survivors are a great extension of the original documentary.
Epilogue – Remembering The Past, A Look To The Future - (5:47) – Esther Fisher passed away on March 14th, 2007. Alan Fisher remembers his wife and shares, in his way, the pride of having a family that has grown so much.
A Generation Apart is a unique experience and a touching, honest and open peek into one family’s life. The struggles that many families feel are shown here and the filmmaker looks into drawing a line between the terrible events of WWII and the problems they experience as a family. Many questions are posed, such as do parents look for the success in their children that they themselves could not have found; is it greater when such tragedy is felt by the parents; do they burden the children more, do they hold them at a distance, do they infuse in them the pain of the holocaust either through what they say or do or what they don’t. Intrinsic questions for these families unearthed and openly shared here.