(Continuing our talk with Sara prior to the conclusion of her INDIEGOGO campaign for the short film, Refuge)
DFNY: Now that we know a bit about what sort of films you love and why, please tell us about what motivated you to make Refuge. Also, you’ve said you don’t watch Holocaust or WW2 films, how difficult is it making this film, considering the topic?
SLH: I was motivated to write Refuge because of the refugee crisis currently happening in Europe. Austria is one of the main routes through Europe for the refugees arriving from the Middle East, which has bred both pro- and anti-immigrant sentiments and has caused the rise of Austria’s right-wing party, the FPOe, whose first few leaders were all former SS officers. Refuge’s goal is to show how the current treatment of refugees echoes the attitudes towards Jews in the years leading up to the Holocaust.
This topic requires me to delve deep into subject on which I do not like to dwell. As a rule, I don’t watch Holocaust films, visit concentration camps, or look at photographs of the horrors that occurred there. The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a Holocaust film would be Inglourious Basterds. I do watch films like Pearl Harbor, but that covers a different area of the war, even though they are just as full of death. I’ll also watch films that deal with the aftermath, such as Woman in Gold or X-Men: First Class (obviously fictional, but still about a Jew trying to come to terms with what happened to him during the Holocaust). I have seen neither Schindler’s List nor Son of Saul. The outcome never changes, even in the fiction of Inglourious Basterds. The Jews always die. I don’t want to constantly relive that.
I do get chills when I see a swastika or other Nazi imagery, but that is far more palatable for me than the alternative, so I’ve been mostly focusing on Austrian antisemitism and the remnants of World War II that still exist in Vienna.
DFNY: As you said, unfortunately there are echoes today of what happened to the Jews before the Holocaust – as there are literally hundreds of films on that topic, what unique spin do you hope to bring to this story?
SLH: Rachel, the protagonist, experiences the Holocaust through cultural memory. What’s unique about the film is the way the Holocaust is portrayed–a flash here, a ghost there. Yet none of it is real, because Rachel didn’t actually experience the Holocaust. At its heart, the film is not about the Holocaust but about the current treatment of refugees; Refuge is about the chance to grow, to learn, to be better. Europe (and the world) has been given a chance to show that they’ve learned from their past with the current influx of refugees, and I hope that they do and I believe that they are. My goal with the film is to spread the message of tolerance.
DFNY: How is the progress on the film? Do you have an idea of its eventual length? And have you chosen the short format for budgetary reasons, or do you feel that a short best expresses your vision for the film?
SLH: Refuge is slated to be 15 minutes, and it is coming along. We are currently in the process of final edits on the script, and we have officially begun pre-production. We’re filling out our cast and crew rosters as well as location scouting, acquiring insurance, getting permits, etc.–all those things that go into pre-production. Refuge is 15 minutes long for a number of reasons, some of which include budgetary and time constraints.
DFNY: Thank you so much for your time – good luck with the campaign, and looking forward to seeing the completed film!