When I began filming my family, I wanted to preserve images of my own world, which seemed to be slipping from grasp. A particular Jewish world on the brink of extinction like many such worlds. I also wanted to create a link between two worlds: me, the actress in Paris, in mine, and my family, working-class Polish Jewish immigrants, in theirs. The typical immigrant dilemma: you’re suffocated if you stay within the family; you’re an exile in the outside world. I filmed my family of Jewish tailors over a seven-year period; all their offspring have married blacks, Belgians and Arabs. Today I realize exactly what sort of film I’ve made. The burning question happened all by itself: At what point has my generation, and me along with it, been deeply affected by the weight of “history?” Did these great values of openness which had been passed down to us – and which are even drawn from the history of Jewish persecution – carry within them a contradiction which lead to the breakdown of Jewish identity? My film centers around this breakdown, full of rips and tears, and what is left of our identity. What will become of it all? Should something be left of it? And what exactly is “it all?”
Producing this film was an unusual adventure. It started just over seven years ago. Hélène Lapiower was an actress then; she’d never touched a movie camera in her life. I don’t think she’d ever even taken a photograph. When she first told me about her idea of filming her family, a Jewish family scattered all over the world, I told her right away that she should do it at once. If she waited, she’d regret it later. The subject of her film, the idea of handing down, and what survives through the generations when you’re Jewish but not religious, was very close to my own thoughts. So we started filming without a centime, first with a small Hi-8 and then with a DV camera. Hélène was obsessed with the fear that some of her loved ones would pass away (and in due course, unfortunately, she was right). She mastered the technique herself. I urged her to film solo, with virtually no backup crew, in order to preserve that rare thing: the intimate relationship she had with her characters.
François Margolin, Producer