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双语 Journalist-turned-director makes “Jewish Olympics” documentary
By:Wu Qiong  |  From:english.eastday.com  |  2018-06-26 13:23

As one of the war documentaries selected by the 21st Shanghai International Film Festival, "Back to Berlin", a UK production which got assistance from Israel, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria and other European countries, has recently been screened in Shanghai’s cinemas. On June 22nd, Catherine Lurie, director of the documentary who is based in London, appeared in a theater and shared behind-the-scenes stories with the audience.

"Back to Berlin" is the first biker-flick-meets-Holocaust feature documentary. In 2015, the European Maccabi Games (also known as the Jewish Olympics) were held in Germany for the first time since WWII at the Waldbühne Stadium, site of Hitler’s infamous 1936 Berlin Olympics. The documentary follows 11 Israeli motor bikers carrying the Maccabi torch from Tel Aviv to Berlin, retracing the tracks of early 1930s riders who set out from the British Mandate of Palestine to all corners of Europe spreading the word about the first Maccabi Games. On their way, many places hold a chilling resonance for the bikers as they discover and share how their families perished, or managed to survive the Holocaust, thus connecting the past and the present.

"This isn't simply a Jewish story. It's the story of people overcoming the worst from fellow men to restate our common humanity," said Catherine. 

Speaking of the reason for making the film, Catherine was overcome by flashbacks of memories. About five years ago, when she was a TV broadcaster in Los Angeles, she accidentally came across the story of the 1930s Maccabi torch relay. Later, when she learned that Germany would host the 2015 Maccabi Games at the Waldbühne Stadium, she decided to shoot a film to capture the irony and significance behind it, with Jewish people returning to a radically new Germany.

According to the journalist-turned filmmaker, another reason for shooting this film is because of the resurgence of anti-Semitism she sadly finds in today’s 21st century, especially in Greece, Poland, and Hungary. With determination in her eyes, she said when something is wrong, she will use her voice to speak up.

Perhaps few people know that Catherine’s father is Jewish, and she was once discriminated against by others when she was young. She has always been interested in Jewish history and culture, and she very much recognizes the Jewish way of family education.

After a screening of the documentary on June 22nd, the Shanghai audience had a Q&A with her. As she revealed, the shooting of "Back to Berlin" took her team about 35 days, but from conception to completion, the whole process lasted three years, during which she had to do a lot of research.

The making of the film was also an emotional journey, for both the director and the crew members. This epic journey makes people realize how deep the trauma of war can be. However, as the film says at the beginning, it is also a journey of redemption. “After the shooting, I received letters written by the motor bikers, who said that was a journey that had impacted their lives,” added Catherine.

During an interview, the director told reporters why she considers the documentary a unique way of revealing the Holocaust history: by documenting the journey of these motor bikers. What’s more, the bikes are a symbol of strength and freedom.