At a packed screening at Yad Vashem this past week, Tal Yoffe was lauded for his documentary film, The Green Dumpster Mystery. The film, made in a personal documentary style, is a type of detective story, following after a family of Holocaust survivors who come to Israel in the late 1940s.
First, Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem, showered praise on Yoffe, calling his film sensitive and emotional. Then Liat Benhabib, the director of the Yad Vashem Visual Center, read the comments by the judges from the Jerusalem Film Festival, where the film won the Avner Shalev award in the category of the Jewish Experience. The judges mentioned that the strength of the film is in its research and commended the filmmaker for approaching the subject of the Holocaust through the back door.
Israeli author Amir Gutfreund (Our Holocaust) was invited to moderate a discussion with the filmmaker. First, he offered some comments on the film, saying that he feels that this film succeeds where other Holocaust films did not – this is a serious art film that can talk to young people, and it is emotional on a human level. He also went so far as to say that film, perhaps more than books, create our Holocaust consciousness, and a film such as this can do a lot for what we know and how we feel about the Holocaust.
Tal Yoffe is a descendant of the founders of Petah Tikva and he was asked to explain why a descendant of the founding generation would decide to make a film about new immigrants and Holocaust survivors -- sort of one end of the spectrum looking at another end of the spectrum. This is especially remarkable in these days of black humor and Holocaust malaise. Yoffe explained that after he found the pictures in the dumpster, he became obsessed with the story which combines a tale of terrible Holocaust suffering and survival with a story of bereavement from the Yom Kippur War. He went on – I was obsessed not to leave anyone anonymous, to find everyone's name and everyone's grave; this is all connected to the meaning of life for me, to the importance of memory, and to whether or not my life has meaning.
The film concludes with Yoffe traveling all the way to Samarkind to search for the grave of a girl who died so young, a girl whom no one remembers. The fact that he does not find the grave, according to Yoffe, provides a strong statement at the end of the film simply because so many have no grave.
For more info on The Green Dumpster Mystery, see my previous posting