“Three Minutes – A Lengthening” presents a home movie shot by David Kurtz in 1938 in a Jewish town in Poland and tries to postpone its ending. As long as we are watching, history is not over yet. The three minutes of footage, mostly in color, are the only moving images left of the Jewish inhabitants of Nasielsk before the Holocaust. The existing three minutes are examined to unravel the stories hidden in the celluloid. The footage is imaginatively edited to create a film that lasts more than an hour. Different voices enhance the images. Glenn Kurtz, grandson of David Kurtz, provides his knowledge of the footage. Maurice Chandler, who appears in the film as a boy, shares his memories. Actress Helena Bonham Carter narrates the film essay.
From Director Bianca Stigter:
As a child, David Kurtz emigrated from Poland to the United States. In 1938 he returned to Europe for a sightseeing trip and whilst there he visited Nasielsk, the town of his birth. Specifically for this trip he bought a 16mm camera, then still a novelty rarely seen in a small town never visited by tourists. Eighty years later his ordinary pictures, most of them in color, have become something extraordinary. They are the only moving images that remain of Nasielsk prior to the Second World War. Almost all the people we see were murdered in the Holocaust.
On Facebook I stumbled upon a book written about this film, Three Minutes in Poland by Glenn Kurtz. The title fascinated me. I ordered the book and watched the footage, which can be found on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While watching, I wondered: could you make those three minutes last longer, to keep the past in the present? For this film essay I examined the footage in the fullest detail, to see what the celluloid would yield to viewers almost a century later. The footage is treated as an archaeological artefact to gain entrance to the past.
I contacted Glenn Kurtz, travelled to Nasielsk to see if any traces remained from the past, and went to Detroit to speak with survivor Maurice Chandler and his family. After this extensive research, I edited the footage in different ways to bring to life as many of the facts and stories about Nasielsk as possible. A few seconds of the recording of a café become a dance scene, a single shot of the market square tells the story of the deportation of its Jewish citizens. All the faces that appear in the film are singled out and magnified to pay homage to the people of Nasielsk. The old images of the Polish town are combined with the way Nasielsk sounds today, creating a tense fusion of the past and the present.
“Three Minutes – A Lengthening” is an experiment that turns scarcity into a quality. Living in a time marked by an abundance of images that are never viewed twice, we do the opposite here: circle the same moments again and again, convinced that they will give us a different meaning each time. The film starts and ends with the same unedited found footage, but the second time you will look at it quite differently. “Three Minutes – A Lengthening” investigates the nature of film and the perception of time. Through the act of watching, the viewers partake in the creation of a memorial.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
HELENA BONHAM CARTER
FAMILY AFFAIR FILMS – FLOOR ONRUST
LAMMAS PARK – STEVE MCQUEEN
INFORMED BY THE BOOK
THREE MINUTES IN POLAND:
DISCOVERING A LOST WORLD IN A 1938 FAMILY FILM
BY GLENN KURTZ
THIS PRODUCTION WAS SUPPORTED BY
THE NETHERLANDS FILM FUND, AMSTERDAM FUND FOR THE ARTS