|Directed by:||Gabriela Bohm||Rating:||TV-14|
|Release Date:||2000||Running Time:||66 mins.|
|More Info:||essay on rape during the Holocaust||Category:||Hist&Rem|
Pregnant women are generally supposed to avoid stress, yet pregnancy is what drives Passages director Gabriela Bohm to embark on the most emotionally taxing journey of her life. A video diary, Passages follows Bohm, single and very pregnant, as she searches for the truth about her parents’ Holocaust experiences, in order to know the legacy that she’s passing on to her unborn child.
“My father cut out all possible information from me and my family and said, ‘Oh, it’s not important… you know just a little … and that’s enough.’ … But…that’s not enough,” the expecting mother explains. “I’m going back in a time tunnel and I’m taking my [unborn] child with me to understand where we come from.”
The Holocaust brought out the worst in human nature and, even though they didn’t suffer directly, children of survivors inherited their parents’ emotional baggage. Passages shares Bohm’s struggle to lift the shroud of secrecy that covers her family’s experience of war, suicide, and sexual abuse. Her globe-trotting journey takes her through Hungary, Romania, and Argentina, but is equally an inward exploration and search for understanding. As Bohm visits with distant family members, flips through old photo albums, and speaks candidly with her mother, she slowly pieces together the truth.
Bohm’s determination is unstoppable. Her sister doesn’t want to participate in her film, her child’s father is convinced that she’s being selfish, and her brother’s presence frustrates her, but she continues with her quest. “I’m anxious and I’m scared,” she confesses to the camera. It’s not easy to continue when it feels like everyone around you is “putting on their breaks.” But nothing will deter her strong will — even at seven months pregnant.
In the Bohm family, secrets were habitually kept with good intentions. Those who knew wanted to protect the ignorant from painful truths. Even when Bohm’s grandfather died, her father kept the news from her mother. After all they had endured during the war, he was sure his wife had mourned enough, and he didn’t have the strength to watch her suffer any more. But, as Bohm has learned, secrets can only be kept for so long, and they don’t actually protect anyone. “It’s not good not knowing, mommy,” she tells her mother while listening to this story. “It’s very important to know. That’s the reason I want my baby to know.” It might be painful, she argues, but the truth is also liberating.
Passages shares unbelievable stories of human resilience and survival. At one point, Gabriela learns that one of her relatives escaped mass execution by jumping into the Danube River, a split second before Nazis soldiers started firing their guns. The woman, pregnant and naked, miraculously swam down the icy river to safety.
The more Bohm learns about her parents, the more she understands herself. Her father had always been a reserved and sullen man, with whom she found it hard to connect. But as Bohm learns his shocking story of survival, she begins to relate to his behavior. She realizes that he overcame fear the only way he knew how — by staying active. He couldn’t afford to process and analyze his experiences; instead, he had to mindlessly persist, charging at fear head on. Bohm realizes that during her life’s most trying times, she has survived by behaving similarly.
After she’s done flying around the world, Bohm returns to America with a new understanding of her origins. She realizes that not only did the Holocaust shroud her family history, it also made her rootless. With a mother from Hungary, a father from Romania, a homeland in Israel, a childhood spent in Argentina, and an address in America, Gabriela’s home has always been in limbo. For her child’s sake, she decides to become an American citizen. She wants to give him something she never had — roots.