The roots of Fear by Janos Kis
I am a second generation Holocaust survivor with relatives deported to Auschwitz and other Nazi extermination camps, as well as ghettos in Hungary. Many of them did not survive, notwithstanding the fact that a part of them were assimilated and even baptized and married to non-Jews. No one could avoid the Holocaust. As a photographer and filmmaker I feel a responsibility and would like to give a voice to those who still warn us from the past while keeping their Jewish identity hidden from their closest friends and even their children and grandchildren.
Racism is rising globally and anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, with special regard to my native Hungary with growing hate-speech in the Parliament, not only against Jews but immigrants and migrants in general, escaping from war torn Syria and other dictator-lead countries, where human rights barely exist. Hatred and xenophobia today spread like a disease and falsified history is apparent. We should remember and learn from our mistakes: the Cambodian-, Rwandan-, Bosnian-, Armenian-, or lately the Rohingya genocide, not to forget the Native Americans. In previous years I visited the Yad Vashem museum in Israel and the Killing Fields and Genocide Museum in Cambodia. As a photojournalist I photographed landmine victims in Cambodia for Handicap International and as a line producer organized documentary shootings with both Khmer rouge survivors and former child soldiers for History Channel Germany.
Last year when I travelled to Auschwitz I did not know what to expect. I did not plan the trip in advance. One cannot plan or prepare oneself enough to visit a place like Auschwitz and Birkenau. All I knew was I wanted to go in winter, when temperature is below zero and freezing. I was not sure whether I would be able to take any pictures and film footage or not. I felt fear as soon as I arrived and this feeling did not change during the 3 days I spent there. It took a while for me to have the first photo taken but then I realized I felt more comfortable behind my camera while observing the cruel history through the viewfinder. I decided to make the film 'Fear' only after becoming more familiar with the location and feeling emotionally more stable. The style of the film was not a question: contemplative, short and absolute minimalist, using no camera movement and applying single long take shots. I also knew that I wanted to shoot only outdoors, but was not sure exactly where and what about. The architectural structure of Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau are quite different but in terms of their vicious function they are very similar. Fear and sadness, with the roaring wind sucking out one's soul. More than 70 years later one still hears the souls crying for help.
I didn’t want to show more than what is appearing in the film itself. I wanted to keep the film as simple as possible. I kept the entire footage in color, instead of changing it to black and white, symbolically connecting the past with the present. The birds must have witnessed the entire tragedy back then when freely flying over the crematoriums of Auschwitz, like they did it during the filming. I know that my film is not a typical Holocaust film, but still hope people reached by it will understand the message: never again. I had no intention to compete with or compare my film to any previous Holocaust films. This is a no budget or extreme low budget film. During production I used only my own equipment (DSLR camera, lenses, mic, and tripod). I paid for my own travel expenses and accommodation. I slightly corrected the colors afterwards and used only naturalistic soundscape 'wind sound' in post-production. 'Fear' is paying tribute to the Holocaust victims.
I feel honored to premier Fear on Tao-Films VoD, the only curated platform providing opportunity for underrepresented international avant-garde filmmakers devoted to Contemporary Contemplative Cinema (Slow Cinema).