Six Million and One: Film Review

This self-indulgent documentary about the family dynamics among the chidren of a Holocaust survivor could have used a more ruthless editor. 

A family retraces their Holocaust survivor father's footsteps in David Fisher's documentary.

The Holocaust takes a back seat to family dynamics in Israeli documentarian David Fisher’s self-indulgent examination of his father Joseph’s time at an Austrian concentration camp and the ramifications for his four surviving adult children. Featuring endless scenes of the Fisher clan squabbling, often at the very locations where their father suffered unimaginable horrors, Six Million and One suggests the need for both a more ruthless editor and a well-trained family therapist.

Joseph, a Hungarian Jew who spent a brief time at Auschwitz before being relocated to camps in Gusen and Gunshirchen, left behind a journal describing his experiences that wasn’t discovered until 12 years after his death. This prompted David to enjoin his siblings — including a sister and two brothers — to join him on a journey retracing their father’s footsteps. But as is made immediately clear in an opening scene in which they debate the wisdom of the trip while tightly crammed together in a van, they were not enthusiastic about the idea.

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And so it goes, with the clan endlessly bickering even while sitting in the forest where Joseph desperately scrounged for food or in the underground tunnels where he was forced to labor. Disturbingly, those tunnels are pretty much all that’s left of the camp, which is now the site of a well-tended middle-class neighborhood.

The film is most moving when it steps away from the family, especially in interviews with former U.S. soldiers who liberated the camp and who describe their enduring trauma as a result of the atrocities they witnessed.

On the other hand, a repeated device featuring a young woman reciting the cause of death of anonymous victims comes across as far less illuminating than gimmicky.

Opened Sept. 28 (Nancy Fishman Film Releasing).

Production: Fisher Features.

Director/screenwriter/producer: David Fisher.

Directors of photography: Ronen Mayo, Claudio Steinberg, Ronen Schechner.

Editor: Hadas Ayalon.

Composer: Ran Bagno.

Not rated, 97 min.