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A Letter Without Words

Directed by Lisa Lewenz

USA | 62 minutes | 1998

English and German with English subtitles

Defiant amateur filmmaker Ella Arnhold Lewenz used some of the earliest known color movie-film to document life in Germany during the 1920's and 30's. She was passionately devoted to pacifism and the dream of a united Europe. Her footage recorded the carefree life of a wealthy, cultured family, providing a fascinating glimpse of the German-Jewish aristocracy. Ella's everyday scenes include images of Albert Einstein, Rabbi Leo Baeck, actress Brigitte Helm and other future exiles at parties. She also documented the elaborate spectacles the Nazis staged during their rapid take-over of Germany. Her diary reveals the startled reaction of a woman whose identity was wholly German. Still, Ella kept her wits about her. She used her position of privilege to secure safe passage to America and escape the fate of the less fortunate millions. When she died in 1954, her films were stored in an attic. In 1981, Ella's granddaughter, director Lisa Lewenz discovered them and began a unique intergenerational collaboration where grandmother and granddaughter's footage are woven into a complex juxtaposition of two different historical periods and cultures. A Letter Without Words is not only a moving first-person account of family history, it is an excavation of German Jewish identity and memory.
Director Lisa Lewenz
Countries of Production USA
Year of Presentation 1998
Language(s) English and German with English subtitles
Premiere Status
Runtime 62 minutes
Principal Cast Lisa Lewenz, Ella Arnhold Lewenz

Nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival

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