- Country: United States
- Initial release: November 15, 2023 (United States)
- Film Director: Daniel Lombroso
- Running Time: 22 Minutes
- IMDB Grade: 7.2
In the face of rising anti-Semitism, one filmmaker embarks on a poignant journey to capture the untold story of his grandmother’s sister, Irena, and her tragic disappearance during the Holocaust. Directed by Daniel Lombroso, the award-winning short documentary “Nina & Irena” delves into the harrowing experiences of Nina Gottlieb and her remarkable journey from Poland to the United States. As her 90th birthday approaches, Nina breaks her decades-long silence, shedding light on the devastating impact of the Holocaust and the importance of preserving the stories of survivors.
Unearthing Deep-Rooted Memories
Nina Gottlieb’s story remained shrouded in silence for over 80 years. However, as the threat of anti-Semitism resurfaced, filmmaker Daniel Lombroso recognized the urgency of capturing her story before it was too late. Having spent years immersed in the world of white nationalists for his debut feature film, “White Noise,” Lombroso felt compelled to turn the camera towards his own family’s history.
A Journey Through Darkness
On the eve of Nina’s 90th birthday, she unveils the painful truth about her sister’s disappearance during the Holocaust. Lombroso, driven by his desire to preserve her story and combat rising anti-Semitism, documents Nina’s recollections of her assimilated upbringing in Poland and the horrors she witnessed as Hitler’s forces invaded her homeland.
Nina recounts tales of hiding with fake papers outside the Warsaw ghetto, witnessing the lifeless bodies strewn across the streets, and the heart-wrenching loss of her sister Irena and 25 other family members. Through her narrative, the audience gains a profound understanding of the total annihilation inflicted upon the Jewish people.
A Film That Transcends Victimhood
While “Nina & Irena” delves into the devastating impact of the Holocaust, it also showcases the resilience and strength of survivors like Nina. The documentary takes viewers on a journey beyond victimhood, unveiling the vibrant, funny, and astonishingly brave woman that Nina is. Lombroso’s intimate portrayal captures the tenderness, love, and warmth that emanate from his grandmother, allowing her humanity to shine through the darkest chapters of her life.
Recognition and Impact
“Nina & Irena” has received critical acclaim and garnered numerous accolades. The documentary won the Best Short Film award at Mountainfilm in Telluride, Colorado, and was named to DOC NYC’s 2023 shortlist of the year’s best nonfiction films. It has also been screened at prestigious festivals such as the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, GlobeDocs Film Festival, and the Nantucket Film Festival.
The film’s powerful message and the urgency of preserving the memories of Holocaust survivors have sparked conversations and touched the hearts of audiences worldwide. It has served as a catalyst for dialogue and understanding, emphasizing the importance of empathy and compassion in combating anti-Semitism and ensuring that history does not repeat itself.
Preserving Memory in a Changing World
As the documentary “Nina & Irena” continues to captivate audiences, it stands as a testament to the importance of preserving the stories of Holocaust survivors. In a world grappling with rising hate and intolerance, Nina’s narrative serves as a powerful antidote, challenging denialism and promoting empathy.
Lombroso’s dedication to capturing his grandmother’s story before it fades into oblivion underscores the vital role that personal testimonies play in educating future generations. By sharing Nina’s experiences, the film not only honors the memory of those lost but also inspires viewers to reject hatred and embrace compassion.
The Unforgettable Legacy of “Nina & Irena”
“Nina & Irena” is more than just a documentary; it is a testament to the resilience and strength of the human spirit. Through its powerful storytelling and intimate portrayal of Nina Gottlieb’s journey, the film leaves an indelible mark on its audience.