Menemsha Films, which earlier brought us the delightful Nora's Will, is releasing a remarkable new DVD: Inside Hana's Suitcase. What makes Hana Brady's story so remarkable in its reach is that this true story circles the globe: Hana's life story--nearly extinguished in the gas and flames of Auschwitz--winds up connecting children at a Holocaust educational center in Japan with the lives of the Brady family, who were devastated in the Shoah and later scattered to North America.
Most importantly, this is a pitch-perfect choice to use with children in educational programs about World War II, the Holocaust--or in classes with general themes on war, peace, remembrance and reconciliation. In fact, the core of this story involves a diverse circle of school children who narrate much of the movie. The Japanese group that began this global quest is dubbed The Small Wings. These were children who wanted to find a project that they and their teacher could undertake to help the world remember the Holocaust and the horrors of World War II. Along the way, a woman who is a Hiroshima survivor comes and helps at the educational center. Anyone familiar with educational efforts on these complex issues will be pleased to hear that the Hiroshima survivor also gives a pitch-perfect description to the children of the major differences between the horrors of nuclear bombing in 1945 and the Shoah. Clearly, someone with great experience in teaching these lessons had a strong hand behind the writing and final editing of this documentary.
THE BASIC STORY: A real-life Japanese schoolteacher, who appears throughout the film, sparked this entire story by gathering artifacts for a Holocaust educational center she was developing along with a group of girls and boys called The Small Wings. After applying to receive Holocaust artifacts, a large box arrives with a handful of artifacts, including a battered brown suitcase labeled with Hana Brady's name. The teacher and her students begin searching for the story behind the suitcase. What they discover will surprise you. They wind up unlocking--and showing us in the film--a whole series of deeply moving memories and other related artifacts and photos. Finally, Hana's surviving brother George travels to Japan to meet the Japanese students. Eventually, books about Hana--and now this documentary--circle the world to help children learn the real cost of unchecked horrors against humanity like the Shoah.