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.)

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