May 14, 2018  (Web Review)

Red Trees

(2018) 80 min. In English & Portuguese w/English subtitles. DVD: $25.99, Blu-ray: $30.99. Cohen Media Group (avail. from most distributors). ISBN: 1-4172-4951-X (dvd), 1-4172-4952-8 (blu-ray).

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Filmmaker Marina Willer’s poetic Holocaust documentary eschews the usual step-by-step chronologies and stock footage to create a personal remembrance related to the Final Solution, with artful walkthroughs of present-day locations where crimes occurred. Willer’s family in old Prague were tied to a prized citric-acid factory, and it was her Jewish father Alfred’s connections and importance to industry (and quite a bit of luck) that narrowly spared him, while the 350,000-strong Jewish community in Czechoslovakia was ruthlessly shipped out to concentration camps and murdered, reduced to a mere 20,000 survivors by war’s end. Actor Tim Piggot-Smith reads poetic passages that give Alfred’s point-of-view of the era, serving up recollections of lost friends and loves, along with fragmentary memories that stand out against the rampages of the Gestapo. Although the flashback-and-forth narrative initially feels disconnected, the wealth of bittersweet detail presented here ultimately pulls the viewer in. Extras include an interview with the director. Recommended. Aud: C, P. (C. Cassady)