You can’t encapsulate the horrors of the Holocaust in 80 minutes, but what the 12 interviewed survivors accomplish in the documentary “Destination Unknown” is nevertheless a vivid portrait of genocide put into practice, and its everlasting effects on the living.
Director Claire Ferguson, who edited together the testimonials, which were filmed over 14 years by producer Llion Roberts, manages to convey a broad canvas of experience from the mostly Polish subjects. All were young when Hitler’s evil spread, and they range from escapees and a partisan who fought alongside the Russians to camp prisoners liberated by Americans.
Families wiped out is a common denominator, but in one instance, a survivor migrates from city to city after the war ends looking for any sign of a relative, only to make a startling discovery in southern Italy. In another instance, a couple separated is miraculously reunited.
The Oskar Schindler story is also emotionally retold by some of those he saved, as well as by the industrialist’s right-hand man, Mietek Pemper, who helped compile the famous list of Jewish workers sent to Schindler’s enamelware factory, shrewdly reconstituted to be made indispensable to Germany’s war production effort. (Pemper inspired the Ben Kingsley character in “Schindler’s List.”)
Survival may connect these stories, as does pain and sorrow, and yet the home movie collage of postwar weddings, celebrations, children and grandchildren at the end signifies something too: humanity’s intrinsic need to balance remembrance with renewal.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes
Playing: Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills