Red Trees

The Willers were one of only 12 Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague. More remarkably, they survived openly as Jews. However, they did not emerge from the experience unscathed. The threat of death was ever present, and countless relatives, friends and acquaintances perished in the death camps or were executed by the Nazis. Red Trees is an impressionistic visual essay made by Marina Willer, the granddaughter of Vilem Willer, the patriarch of the family during the war. Guided by the memories of her father, Alfred, who was an adolescent at the time, she reconstructs her family's life in the Czech Republic and their narrow escape from the death camps due to Vilem's mastery of the process for the manufacture of citric acid, a critical substance for the German war effort. Following the war, the Willers opted to emigrate to Brazil where the family flourished in an environment where racial and cultural diversity were the norm rather than the exception. With breathtaking imagery by cinematographer Cesar Chalone (City of God) and evocative voiceover of the young Alfred by actor Tim Pigott-Smith, Willer presents Red Trees as both a testament to the human will to survive as well as a celebration of diversity and acceptance. –Mark Valentine


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