Véra Belmont (director)
UK Jewish Film Festival 2023 (studio)
16 November 2023 (released)
18 November 2023
My Father’s Secrets is the true story about an Auschwitz survivor, Henri Kichka (Elliott Gould) a father and husband dealing with family curious to know more about his past. His son Michel (Ilan Galkoff) is particularly persistent.
Henri avoids talking about the Holocaust - the four children know about that and the suffering but little of the details - even when questioned about the number on his arm. It’s a source of some irritation for Henri which he tolerates getting on with work and family life.
In the meantime as the viewer sees from the start, Michel and his brother have to put up with everyday antisemitism in Belgium. Chased by thugs on the streets or comments at school. However they carry on with childhood life which in Michel’s case is a budding young romance with a girl at school. Life at home has its complications with his elder sister feeling stifled by tradition.
However matters change after the Eichman trial when he is found guilty of crimes against humanity and hanged in Israel. Watching the judgement in a café, Henri feels a burden lifted and begins to talk about his experiences, though leaving out his family. His secrecy begins to wear on the family and possibly results in a tragedy that estranges Michel and Henri.
Based on the graphic novel by Michel Kicha and released shortly before Henri’s passing on 2020, My Father’s Secret is a beautifully written and animated film that doesn’t flinch from the evils of the Nazi’s, using spectral images of the camps with actual archive footage and photos of the atrocities.
With a narration David Baddiel playing the adult Michel, the film follows their lives as Henri takes his story out to the people, becoming a celebrity of sorts that fractures further an already fractious family. Parallel to that Michel is studying and developing his art as a cartoonist and falling in love. Eventually moving to Israel where he became a leading satirist.
It’s a complex relationship that director Véra Belmont with co-writers Michel Kichca and Valérie Zenatti develop and it is genuinely heartening and heartbreaking. They deal with issues that the viewer will see both sides of but not take one. It’s impossible to do so in situations like this where both have compelling profound convictions that divide them albeit they are bonded by blood and love at a much deeper level.
One thing worth noting is that this is the English dubbed version the original being in French.
My Father’s Secrets was presented at the UK Jewish Film Festival 2023 and will be available on digital platforms from 27 November 2023.