My Father’s Secrets is a 2023 animated French and Belgian co-produced animated film. It is written and directed by Véra Belmont (Marquise, Surviving with Wolves) and based on the 2012 autobiographical graphic novel Second Generation – Things I Never Told to my Father by Michel Kichka.
It is available on UK and Ireland Digital Platforms from 27th November 2023, courtesy of Blue Finch Films.
“Dad, why do you still have that telephone number on your arm? You should wash it off.”
It’s 1959 and in Seraing, Belgium, Michel (Ilan Galkoff – Good Omens (TV Series)) and his younger brother Charly (Skye Bennett) are in trouble again, they’ve been caught trying to steal carrots from a truck. They are collected by their mother Lucia (Tracy-Ann Oberman – Friday Night Dinner (TV series)) and father Henri (Elliott Gould – Ocean’s Eleven, Dangerous Lies) and taken to the family home they share with their two sisters, Irene and Hannah.
They are a Jewish family and Henri is a survivor of Auschwitz, but the children know little of this period of his life and he refuses to discuss it with them, even keeping his office locked and forbidding them entry. As children will, their curiosity gets the better of them and they look inside, but what they find, a journal with hand drawn pictures and Holocaust photos, is deeply disturbing and gives them nightmares.
With the trial of Adolf Eichmann, Henri’s demeanor changes and he makes it his mission to spread the word of the atrocities in order to stop it from being repeated. However, this is done at the expense of spending time with his children, who resent that he will tell his story to anyone but them. When tragedy strikes the family, they must learn how to heal together.
“I never saw him cry. I never saw his eyes either. They were so small behind his thick glasses. So tiny I couldn’t even tell what colour they were. I think they shrank in the camp. Or the light in them simply went out.”
My Father’s Secrets is a very well written story, which tells of a very dark period in human history, seen through the eyes of Second Generation Jewish children, struggling to understand and make sense of what happened to their parents. The whole thing is expertly narrated by David Baddiel (Huge) as the grown up Michel, who brings everything together brilliantly.
It’s interesting to see how their perception of race changes as they grow older. When young it makes little difference to them but as they grow older they begin to notice the casual racism which surrounds them and seems to define their lives.
The animation style is relatively simplistic and accessible and makes this the ideal platform to introduce the subject of the Holocaust to younger viewers through the eyes of teenagers their own age and in a medium they can identify with. It will be upsetting for younger viewers, but it’s an important message which needs to continue to be heard. Excellent and well worth a watch.
“I was afraid I wouldn’t recognise him. But mainly, I was afraid I would.”
My Father’s Secrets is on UK and Ireland digital platforms from 27 November
|Elliot Gould, David Baddiel, Miriam Margolyes, Ilan Galkoff