Life Is Beautiful
Wikipedia offers a succinct synopsis, as well as plenty of information about the film and actor Roberto Benigni, who directed and co-wrote it. He played Guido Orefice, a Jewish Italian, who made use of his fertile imagination to help his family survive internment in a Nazi concentration camp.
Benigni’s acceptance at the Oscars for Best Actor (won because of this film) is something to behold, and he received it from Sophia Loren’s hand, no less. He was fabulous: no holds barred in his joy and gratitude.
I thought of this film when I received a link from my mom, (who received it from a friend, and so on and so on — you know how it goes), about a woman named Fania who smuggled a small heart-shaped book, a “cloth and paper valentine,” out of Auschwitz, in 1945.
Fania Fainer is now 85, and living in Toronto. She donated the book to the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre, where it is now a major attraction to that museum, and inspired Montreal filmmakers Carl Leblanc and Luc Cyr to create Into The Heart of Auschwitz.
The curator of the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Center, Julie Guinard, commented:
If human beings can create Auschwitz, I am happy to know that human beings can also create a little heart inside Auschwitz. Because if these women, in Auschwitz, were capable of having so much courage and empathy for one another, then maybe there is hope for the world.
Another hope inspiring story is that of Alice Herz Sommer, a pianist whose music was “her food,” and kept her alive during internment at Theresienstadt. She is now 106, and still plays the piano for three or more hours every day.
There is one more phenomenal life story brought to my attention in the last few weeks, gifted to me from a volunteer at the school where I work. I am going to save that story for a subsequent post.
Art doesn’t just enrich lives, it can actually save them.
*The Heart of Auschwitz *The Heart from Auschwitz: Humanity in a sea of horror (Globe and Mail article by Ingrid Peritz) *They Played For Their Lives (San Francisco Film Society) *The Girls From Room 28 (The Jerusalem Post article, by Barry Davis) *Holocaust Survivor Alice Herz Sommer Playing Piano *BBC Radio Interview with Alice Herz Sommer *We Want the Light *Oldest living Holocaust survivor still plays a mean piano at age 10 (from Under the Piano Stool) *A Garden of Eden in Hell: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, by Melissa Müller and Reinhard Piechocki (Macmillan) (from Amazon.com and Amazon.ca)
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