There’s many a documentary depicting the horrors of the Holocaust. As one of the most horrific tragedies in history, the systematic genocide of Europe’s Jewish population has been heavily documented, and for obvious reasons: it should never be let to ever happen again, not to any group of individuals.
So how does a filmmaker make his mark on such an oft-documented subject? By taking a slightly different approach. Seamlessly blending spoken testimony of a group of survivors and the people who helped them, with remarkably rare footage from the war, this documentary weaves a story that’s both passionate and powerful. That’s where Destination Unknown shines: by showing a stark contrast with real life footage of one of the worst periods lived by mankind, and where the people who lived through it stand now.
The interviews are interspersed with footage from the war and with activities incurred by the survivors in current times. Some take the trip back to the concentration camps with their families and loved ones, others stay as far away as possible as the pain of going back would be too much to bear. Seeing these scarred individuals grapple with their memories is often heartbreaking, and reminds us of what truly went on back in mid 20th century. It’s a good mix of individuals, gathered from an ever dwindling pool of people still alive from those times, which makes the very existence of these documentaries priceless.
As much as every story told is equally important, there’s no denying that out of the group of interviewed individuals one of them stands out: Mietek Pemper, who was Oskar Schindler’s right hand man, and instrumental in leading the Jews present on the famous list to safety. That’s not to say the other stories lack impact, on the contrary, but it’s certainly something unexpected from a film of this scale.
Director and editor Claire Ferguson certainly has a great grasp on how to lead us from one interview to the next. However, there’s a slight feeling of repetition to the proceedings, both stemming from countless other Holocaust documentaries, and within the film itself. It doesn’t detract from the message of the film, and we need more films depicting these tragedies, not less, but this doc doesn’t do enough to distance itself from others in the same league.
These films are here to remind us of where we’ve been, and how relevant that memory is, so that we don’t stumble again. In these uncertain times, Destination Unknown serves as a good reminder that the world is in a better place than it was, but that we need to be vigilant in not repeating past mistakes.
Destination Unknown comes out in UK cinemas on June 16th