“My Father’s Secrets”: a moving film to tell children about the Holocaust

It’s not easy to broach a subject as weighty as the Holocaust lightly. Selected at the Cannes, Annecy and Angoulême festivals, ” My Father’s Secrets is aiming right. We are quickly caught up in this moving story, which is aimed at the youngest without being watered down. The challenge of finding a balance between narration, animation and archive footage is met!

Transmission at the heart of the story

It’s a young girl’s film, signed by a filmmaker… soon to be 90 years old. ” My Father’s Secrets “, animated feature film adapted from the comic strip “ Second generation », by Michel Kichka (Éd. Dargaud), tells a story close to the heart of Véra Belmont. How do you explain the Holocaust to children without shocking them too much? How do you show them the atrocities Jews suffered because of Nazi Germany? Adapted from a true story, this animated film questions what is called the duty of memory, the importance of understanding the horrors of the past to prevent them from happening again. The subject is terrible and very moving, but the softness of the drawings attenuates the harshness. The gags also bring a little lightness to this film tinged with fantasy and adventure.

My Father’s Secrets thus wonderfully describes two irreconcilable logics that face each other. On the one hand, that of Henri (the father) who is haunted by what he has seen and endured, and who believes that it is more important than anything to cultivate the memory of the disappeared, to show himself loyal to them. On the other, that of Michel and Charly (his children) who believe that their father lives in the past and not in the present. This makes him unable to give his loved ones the affection and attention they need. He celebrates the dead to such an extent that he forgets the living, and makes them carry the weight of a story that is not theirs. This original and sensitive angle favors the gaze of the child rather than that of the adult. The vision of Véra Belmont, herself the daughter of a Belarusian Jew whose relatives disappeared in the camps, indeed received the Prix des Collégiens and the Prix des Lycéens during the 2022 edition of the Cannes Film Festival. A film to watch with children (from 8 years old), therefore!

Other works to talk about

Many films and documentaries have been made over the past seventy years to tell the absolute horror of the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War. Of Night and Fog at Schindler’s ListPassing by goodbye children, Life is Beautiful, Holocaust or The pianist. But no director had previously chosen to explore this theme of the intellectual, emotional and generational divide that can separate families. It’s never easy to broach these subjects with children… So, to go further, there are a lot of novels, stories, films that touch on these themes. There is of course the diary of Anne Frank that we all know, which traces the deportation experienced from the inside by a young Jewish girl hidden during the German occupation. A great classic of literature, it is nevertheless not the only work that allows us to talk about it. For the little ones, we recommend Otto. Autobiography of a teddy bear », an illustrated book written by Tomi Ungerer, considered one of the most brilliant designers of his generation. Author of classics like The Three Bandits », « John of the Moon », « The Giant of Zeralda »… If you don’t know, go for it!

For the older ones, we recommend Maus by Art Spiegelman. A comic based on the interviews between the author and his father, survivor of the death camps. The narrative frame develops through an extremely eloquent animal metaphor: the Jews are mice and the Germans are cats. The use of animals does not make this work funny, it just helps to make the suffering endured by the Jews bearable. A fundamental and poignant work, which is aimed more at young teenagers and adults.

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“My Father’s Secrets”: a moving film to tell children about the Holocaust

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