INSIDE HANA’S SUITCASE
A Teacher’s Quest
Release Date: November 06, 2009
Audience: Older children to adults
Rating: ** A Teacher’s Quest **
Runtime: 90 minutes
Distributor: Menemsha Films
Director: Larry Weinstein
Executive Producer: Patrick Crowe, Keith Clarkson,
Producer: Jessica Daniel, Rudolf
Biermann, Larry Weinstein
Writer: Thomas Wallner
Address Comments To:
Neil Friedman, Founder and President, Menemsha Films
213 Rose Avenue, 2nd Floor
Venice, CA 90291
Telephone: (310) 452-1775; Fax: (310) 452-3740
(BBB, ACACAC, V, M) Strong moral worldview following a schoolteacher’s quest to discover more about Hana, the owner of the suitcase and a victim of the Holocaust, with anti-totalitarian content against the National Socialists during the World War II era who killed millions of Jews, Roman Catholics, and Protestants, with footage of Holocaust survivors and victims; no foul language; no foul language; very little violence depicted, only accounts of Holocaust survivors of the conditions and treatment of Jews during the Holocaust, windows being shattered and broken by Hitler’s National Socialist Party, National Socialist troops march with guns; no sexual content; no nudity; only alcohol consumption was a champagne toast for New Year’s Day; no smoking or illegal drug use; and, accounts of Jews being arrested and imprisoned unjustly and killed and despised by Nazis.
INSIDE HANA’S SUITCASE is a moving and intriguing story inspired by the true story of a little Czechoslovakian girl, Hana Brady, who perished in the Holocaust but is survived by her brother, George. Photographs, interviews, on-location footage, music, sound effects, and reenactments of Hana’s family living under National Socialism are used creatively to tell Hana’s story in a unique, vibrant manner.
INSIDE HANA’S SUITCASE is an intriguing account of one little Jewish girl who died in 1941 during the Holocaust.
The story begins to unfold in Japan when a schoolteacher, Fumiko Ishioka, acquires Hana’s suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum. Fumiko is compelled to learn all she can about Hana to share the information with her students. The story spans countries including Tokyo and Canada, where students in classrooms tell the story of Hana and Fumiko’s journey to make connections to Hana’s experiences before and during the Holocaust when the Hitler’s National Socialists invaded her country with fear and hatred toward Jews. One of Fumiko’s goals is to expose her students to not just the death of Hana Brady, but also her life. She also taught her students the importance of respect and tolerance of other cultures and religions so tragedies like the Holocaust don’t happen again.
Traveling back in time, there are reenactments of the stories of Hana and her older brother George as happy children growing up in Czechoslovakia. The story is told via children from several countries, survivors, and historians of the Holocaust, actual family film of Hana and George, and well-done reenactments of Hana and George as children. Hana and George belong to an upper close-knit middle and upper class Jewish family. Their parents love and care for them and enjoy having fun together. They own a store and take trips traveling together.
When the Nazis invade Czechoslovakia, everything changes. One day the family sits crestfallen listening over the radio to the announcement of many of their rights and privileges being taken away because they are Jewish. They must wear the Star of David on all their clothing because they are Jewish. Once their rights are taken away, the Gestapo begins to take away everything else: including Hana and George’s mom, who still manages for Hana’s birthday to send Hana and George a letter and small trinkets shaped like hearts and horseshoes handmade out of bread.
Then, sometime later they watch their dad being taken away in a car by the Gestapo. Their father writes for as long as he can, but the children never see their mother or dad again. Orphaned, they leave to stay with cousins in another town who are Christians. Hana and George loved being with family again, but it doesn’t last, and Hana and George are both eventually taken to concentration camps.
In Canada, Lara Brady, the daughter of Hana’s brother, George Brady, was also teaching her students about what happened during the Holocaust and what happens when people have prejudices and hatred. Lara and George travel from Canada back to Europe to the Czech republic, where George recalls his childhood with Hana before and during the Holocaust. George and Hana travel to the concentration camps and light three candles in remembrance of George’s mother, father, and Hana.
Teacher Fumiko Ishioka also travels to Europe in search of answers about who Hana was. Her journey takes her to Terezin. Fumiko’s quest, as well as others interviewed with similar sentiments of the terrible wrong and tragedy of the Jewish genocide, displays a moral worldview throughout this documentary.
While visiting Terezin, Fumiko learns that, during the Holocaust, Terezin was a concentration camp where many Jewish artists were held. They secretly began offering classes in the arts, such as drawing and music. Fumiko receives reprints of several of Hana’s drawings of her life before and during the Holocaust. During Fumiko’s search, she learns that Hana had a brother who survived the Holocaust, George. Fumiko writes George and asks him if they could have a picture of what Hana actually looked like to add to their Holocaust display. Eventually, she gets a response from George with pictures. He even visits Tokyo where Fumiko’s students honor him and share about what they’ve learned about the Holocaust and how wrong it is to hate or kill others just because they are different.
When George sees Hana’s suitcase, his eyes grow red. The traumatic experience is still painful for him. George and Lara share how George has grown to have a good life with children of his own. Lara knows George’s parents and Hana would be proud.
George, who’s now in his 70s, seeing Hana’s suitcase with his own eyes could be the final resolution of the story. However, it’s discovered that Hana’s original suitcase was destroyed with many other Holocaust artifacts due to arson during the 1980s. It would seem Hana’s story would have ended there but due to a childhood friend also sent to Auschwitz who survived the Holocaust recognized Hana’s suitcase and took a photograph with the suitcase. Years later, Hana’s suitcase was one of the few that could actually be replicated based on the photograph. Hana’s story has been retold in several different languages. Even in her death, her story has brought awareness, understanding, closure, and life to many who have learned the story of Hana’s suitcase.
INSIDE HANA’S SUITCASE begins to unfold in Tokyo when a schoolteacher, Fumiko Ishioka, acquires Hana’s suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum. Fumiko is compelled to learn all she can about Hana to share with her students. The eventual story spans countries, including Tokyo and Canada where students in classrooms tell the story of Hana. Fumiko journeys to Europe to make connections to Hana’s experiences before and during the Holocaust. She teaches her students the importance of respect and tolerance of other cultures and religions so tragedies like the Holocaust don’t happen again. Hana’s brother George, a 70-year-old Holocaust survivor, is also instrumental in bringing Hana’s story to life in the 21st Century. He even visits Tokyo where Fumiko’s students honor him and share what they’ve learned about the Holocaust.
The photographs, interviews, on-location footage, sound design, reenactments, and animation of Hana’s artwork are well developed. The filmmakers use them creatively to tell Hana’s story in a unique, vibrant manner. The story of Fumiko’s quest to gather information to teach her students about Hana and show them why prejudice and hatred is wrong, gives INSIDE HANA’S SUITCASE a very strong moral worldview.