Inside Hana's Suitcase: movie review

( Unrated ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

A blend of documentary and drama, 'Inside Hana's Suitcase' recounts the tragic tale a young girl at Auschwitz and the Japanese school teacher who, years later, tries to discover who she was.

In 1999, Fumiko Ishioka, director of the Tokyo Holocaust Museum, visited Auschwitz and, traumatized, began amassing materials that would allow Japanese schoolchildren to understand the enormity of the event. Delivered to her is a suitcase from the Auschwitz Museum upon which is painted, in crude white lettering, the words "Hana Brady, May 16, 1931" and "Waisenkind," the German word for orphan. This artifact leads Ishioka to discover Hana's brother George who, unlike his sister and parents, survived the concentration camps and lives in Toronto.

Director Larry Weinstein's documentary "Inside Hana's Suitcase," which goes in for too many reenactments and draws on the bestselling book by Karen Levine, brings in a chorus of modern-day children from the Czech Republic (Hana's homeland), Canada, and Japan. They speak of Hana as if she were a friend and classmate. Although their responses too often seem rehearsed, their innocence is touching and redemptive.

George is also interviewed at length. For him, the sudden reappearance of his sister's suitcase, from Japan no less, is a gift beyond measure. Watching him surrounded by his bustling family, he tells us, "My biggest wish would be if my parents could see my family here together." Grade: B  (Unrated.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Inside Hana's Suitcase: movie review
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today