Michael Kretzmer

The world and J’Accuse!

About a year ago nobody knew about my film J’Accuse! Yet today, barely six months since I pressed the ‘Export Movie’ option on my £1200 Mac the film is being seen,  celebrated and discussed across the world.

Every day now I get texts, emails and messages from people I don’t know, from academics at great universities to strangers discovering hidden family wounds. The film has also won many awards and this success, I pray, will draw audiences from Buenos Aires to Tamil Nadu. And so the world will learn of Lithuania’s insult to the Jewish People and realise that there are at least some Jews today who won’t accept this sort of antisemitic bullshit any more.

How on earth did this happen? How did we ‘market’ this 86-minute gut-wrenching film with zero marketing staff, zero marketing experience, zero marketing talent, zero marketing interest, zero marketing ability and a marketing budget of precisely… zero?

Three things, I reckon (if we leave God out of it). Geography, genes and the moral courage of ordinary people.

By geography I specifically mean Litvak Southern Africa and especially the surreal  Jewy suburb of Kumalo in Bulawayo where I grew up. We, the progeny of this savannah shtetl, are everywhere now. We’ve created families, communities and busy lives in Britain, Australia, Israel, France, Canada and the United States. Yet many of us, still, go home. We turn to FB to find out what’s cutting in the old country and there we kvel about kids and grandkids and grieve about deaths and lost friends and gossip and exchange memories, pics, gags and Shabbat Shaloms like it was yesterday.

But what makes this network so effective is this: three generations after the bloodshed I believe we are primed and ready to abseil that chasm of grief and horror called Lithuania. And we understand why the insult of Noreika has to be challenged.

When we Jews go back to Lithuania we return to a land that is eerily familiar. On the vandalised tombstones we read our names. In the torn photographs we see our faces. This connection resonates deeply, all the way down to the molecular level. Literally.

Let me tell you a story. From the beginning of the project I knew I needed to colourise the black and white photos that were coming my way. This is an expensive process and we were (and are) always broke. But one night I got to meet an extraordinary guy called Ian Levine who is not only one of Britain’s most famous songwriters and producers (Northern Soul) but also a world class genealogist.

So we got talking as Yids do and within 45 seconds Ian established that not only were we 4th cousins on both sides but also cousins of an Israeli guy called Aaron who works for a company called (yes, that one) which has developed genius photo colourisation tools. And within half hour I’d not only met  Aaron (a mensch) but also acquired for free the software that’s enabled me to bring back to life the murdered people who have inspired my film and in whose name it has been made.

And the third reason for the film’s bizarre success? It is because of people like Alan, Stephen, Joel, Lorian, Maxine, Shua, Nigel, Donna, Irene, Claudia, Shirley, Richard R, Tom, Renee, Tali, Mark, Richard S, Joyce, Vivien and many, many others who have helped me without hesitation or payment.

And why have they helped me?

I think it’s because of Yehuda Bauer’s 11th commandment: ‘Thou shalt not be a victim, thou shalt not be a perpetrator, but, above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.’

The Lithuanian government thinks it will get away with its holocaust lies. Well we’ve got news for them.

They won’t.

About the Author
Bulawayo born, a former travel writer for the Sunday Times and director/producer for the BBC and other once important media organisations, a keeper of chickens and grower of fruit and veg, a biker, a student of Torah, a Dad and Grandad... and a man determined to fight for justice in Lithuania.