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Buried Prayers

February 16, 2013

Cinequest 2010


BURIED PRAYERS is an emotional documentary about the search for buried items from holocaust victims who had been sent to the gas chambers.  In 1943 one of the worst death camps was Maidanek in Warsaw, where before the victims were sent into the camp they were held in these big fields right outside.  After interviewing many survivors of the camp the filmmakers started hearing multiple stories of some of the Jews having buried their jewelry and valuables right in the field.  They were well aware they would never exit Maidanek alive, but in a final act of defiance they refused to let the Germans get hold of their possessions so they buried them in the field.  The film is about Maidanek itself, the stories of many witnesses from Maidanek, and finally the search for the items.

buried-prayers_adamringsThe pluses of this documentary are the witness accounts and the information about Maidanek itself.  There are heartbreaking stories from the survivors who were mostly teenagers in 1943 and lost their entire families – their parents, siblings, everyone.  Most had never spoken of what had happened in Maidanek until this documentary, and they were extremely touching and tales that needed to be told.

The minus is the amount of time spent on discussions about searching for the items, as opposed to the time spent actually looking and showing us what was found.  It feels a bit dragged out as we are told over and over what a good idea it is to search these fields.  The actual archaeological dig is not shown until the final minutes of the film.

buried-prayers_wintertowerThe documentary is not as depressing as I expected it to be, so don’t let the idea of a dark, depressing tale push you away from this film (as I almost did).  It IS a very emotional documentary, but there was something uplifting about the fact that the items hidden were actually found all this time later, that the stories of the people who died there were going to be told.  The documentary is a rough cut and not completely edited yet, and of course there will be much more to be told later as they complete the dig (2 days work uncovered 80 items but left 99% of the field still to be searched).

It is an imperfect documentary, but a story that needs to be told.  Don’t be afraid to see it, you will definitely learn something and see an incredible strength of human spirit.

[Edited: It also may be a different film than I saw in 2010, since I saw a rough cut, there were some problems and issues, and I discussed those with the director.  I’d love to see the finished product.]

I cannot find any way to view this film yet, I would keep an eye on the website if you have an interest.

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