In the spirit of Louis Malle's "Au Revoir les Enfants" and Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List," the Emmy Award-winning documentary "The Children of Chabannes" has been called "a moving record of the unassuming, uncompromising heroism of ordinary people" (New York Times) and "one of the most heartening Holocaust films ever made: splendid, informative and emotionally involving." (Los Angeles Times)
"The Children of Chabannes" is the story of how the people of Chabannes, a tiny village in unoccupied France, chose action over indifference and saved the lives of 400 Jewish refugee children during World War II. Inspired by a reunion more than 50 years after the war, Lisa Gossels ("My So-Called Enemy"), and co-director Dean Wetherell, travel to Chabannes with Lisa's father Peter and uncle Werner (two of the saved children). The film tells the story of how the teachers and townspeople, children of the French Revolution - who believed in the values of "liberty and equality" - worked with the OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants), a Jewish child welfare organization, to shelter, nurture, and educate the children. Through intimate interviews with historians, teachers, OSE employees and "children" of Chabannes, the filmmakers recreate the joys and fears of daily life in the village. When a round-up led by the Vichy police leads to the deportation of 6 children in August of 1942, the oasis of hope is shattered. Through moving accounts by the extraordinary teachers who taught and loved these children, the film shows the remarkable efforts made by the citizens of Chabannes, who risked their lives and livelihoods to make sure that not one other child became a victim of the war.
"The Children of Chabannes" is not just a story about the past; it is an exploration of goodness in the face of evil - of what motivates individuals to take a stand against injustice, bigotry and extremism. The film embodies the ideas of progressive education: celebrating inclusion and the embracing of cultural and religious differences.
"The Children of Chabannes" is nothing short of brilliant. As one of the only - if not the only - hopeful explorations of the Holocaust I've ever seen, the film is beautifully and meticulously rendered, seamlessly weaving historical and biographical data with contemporary interview footage and critical reflection. I will use the film in my Intercultural Communication class in order to teach students the importance of actively valuing and embracing difference when communicating cross-culturally, as well as to illustrate the transformation that occurs when we treat one another with compassion and respect. Any academic discipline that studies the Holocaust - Communication, English, History, Psychology, Religious Studies, Theater - will find this film an essential pedagogical tool. - Joanne Gilbert, Ph.D., Charles A. Dana Professor and Chair Department of Communication and New Media Studies, Alma College
Awards and Broadcasts
Winner, Emmy Award - Outstanding Historical Programming
HBO Signature Double Exposure
American Public Television - PBS
Nantucket Film Festival: Audience Award, Best Feature Film
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