Secrets of my father: review that we keep in mind


At almost 90 years old, Véra Belmont tried her hand at animation for the first time. If the tone and the aesthetic denote a priori the rest of his work, more rough and dark, My Father’s Secrets fits well in the continuity of a committed filmography having mainly dealt with difficult political and societal subjects, such as documentary film Prisoner of Mao Where Red Kiss on the French communist youth of the 1950s.

The French filmmaker was born in Paris in the early 1930s into a Jewish immigrant family and was therefore also interested in the Second World War during her career. She notably produced Trierthe adaptation of Primo Levi’s second autobiographical work, and above all produced Milena and Survive with wolves which take place before and during the rise of Nazism in Europe.

Back in the past

Like the previous films mentioned, My Father’s Secrets also takes a side step to return to this historical chapter which did not end in 1945. The animated film takes place almost a decade after the liberation of Paris and the death of Hitler, and also stops at the gates of Auschwitz, the characters remaining at the surroundings of the concentration camp in order to grasp its horror under a different prism.

The film thus marks the spirits by its modesty and its reserve which do not camouflage the historical reality, but on the contrary makes it possible to seize the nuances and the repercussions on the survivors. Auschwitz is a ghost, an entity that haunts the past of Henri Kichka, a former deportee, but also the present of his sons Michel and Charly, to whom their father has never told anything about his ordeal and moves away from them. by dint of wanting to protect them from the truth. Even if the subject has been approached through hundreds of films or series, My Father’s Secrets is another precious testimony on the release of the word of the survivors, their listening and the need for the duty of remembrance across generations.

My Father's Secrets: photoThe weight of memory


My Father’s Secrets is adapted from the autobiographical comic strip by Michel Kichka (Second Generation: What I Didn’t Tell My Dad) and was produced by the very nice studio Je Suis Bien Content, to which we already owe three other French co-productions and animation nuggets: Persepolis, The day of crows and April and the rigged world (not forgetting the series Lastman or short films Once upon a time there was oil and raging blues).

Even though the animation and the plastic of the film are nothing stunning and that the digital often prevails over the artisanal aspect of the 2D drawings and sets, the film reconnects with the heritage of Franco-Belgian comics that we already found in other productions of the studio. This mainly involves simplified and rounded lines and thick black outlines which soften the original work which was intended more for an adult audience.

My Father's Secrets: photoA fleeting mischief

The use of animation is all the more relevant as it allows you to approach events from a child’s perspective, avoiding high-profile pathos that would smother the story’s many layers. The director also insisted on the importance of the process, according to her, more decent and distant, which brings her message to a wider audience.

With an illustrative value, the animation also allows to to probe the imagination of the two boys, while lending itself to comic caricature or more dreamlike sequences. If the past and, by rebound, the present of Henri are branded with a hot iron and the film deals with serious and depressing subjects, it remains enveloped in the innocence and carelessness of its young protagonists to which the animation fits perfectly. , however imperfect.

This balance gives rise to beautiful moments of tenderness, humor and comfort until the end, inevitably bittersweet, but poetic and metaphorical. Moreover, the archival images slipped onto the screen allow for some striking breaks to prevent this deliberate distancing from giving way to fiction in the minds of the public.

My Father's Secrets: photoSecond generation


To address anti-Semitism, the Holocaust or socialism, the narration passes through seemingly harmless slices of life, but ultimately subtle and heavy with meaning (wetting the bed or being excluded from a catechism class). Even if the Second World War and the raids hover over the story, it does not forget to take an interest in its characters, to depict their daily lives, their laughter, their dramas, and in fact, to talk about the great History through the small.

My Father's Secrets: photoA relationship that deserved a little more attention

Even though he can be blamed for neglecting the other members of the Kichka family, the film addresses the generational divide between those who survived the war (and are still trying to survive) and those who did not experience it and therefore cannot understand it. Thus, Michel reproaches his father for living in the past in the midst of the dead instead of turning to the present and his relatives, crystallizing through their quarrels and unsaid the complex social and political context of the post-war period.

Henri is a clumsy father and Michel an overwhelmed son who manage to reconcile through dialogue and through transmission, whether it is that of a heavy story or a common passion (in this case drawing and caricature) . It’s in the end a beautiful story of love and resilience which sheds new light on History and gives Henri’s life a more peaceful ending.

My Father's Secrets: Poster

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Secrets of my father: review that we keep in mind

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