Entertainment, Movie, Reviews

Nicky’s Family, an Outstanding Heartfelt Tribute (Film Review)

 

Not every stone has been turned about the atrocities on WWII and the people who stood up against the Nazis to make a difference in the world.  Nicky’s Family gets released this weekend and the touching documentary reveals a little known event in history that saved nearly 700 children destined for  gas chambers just before the war broke out in Czechoslovakia.  The heartfelt film is inspirational, important to all audiences and necessary as a warning that freedom cannot be taken for granted.

Nicky’s Family plays out in documentary form with reenactments delving into how by chance one man can change destiny for children earmarked for death. From a scrapbook found in the attic of Sir Nicholas Winton and using home movies, movie news footage, snap shots and dramatizations we enter the world of Czechoslovakia in 1938.

With its government weak and frightened by the invasions going on in Europe by the Germans, Czechoslovakia finds itself in a precarious position. Without their attendance the main powers of Europe sign the Munich Agreement in Germany. This allowed the Nazis to take control of the areas bordering Czechoslovakia dubbed Sudentenland that was mainly inhabited by ethnic Germans.  Thinking they were safe from the German onslaught, the county felt they could take a back seat to the inevitable war in Europe.  But, their fate was already sealed as without a strong militia and a government weakened by a loss of support from France and Britain in a matter of months Czechoslovakia was sucked into the Third Reich.  

young Nicholas Winton with rescued child

At the age of 29, the young British businessman Nicholas Winton took an offer from his friend Martin Blake to forgo a vacation and meet him in Prague, Cz on a special assignment. Following the Munich Agreement in 1938 the German Armies started invading the country.  Blake, under the auspices of the British Committee to help refuges in Prague was to concentrate on helping a special group of adults flee the country, among them prominent people including artists and political leaders.  While there, Winton was approached about the children of the country being vulnerable to the German Armies.

A mother gives up her child to save its life in Nicky’s Family

Throughout the film I was held emotionally mesmerized by several things including the easy takeover of a country that laid itself helpless to the despicable tyrants, the desolation of the people’s rights, and intentional castigation of the Jews holding them hostage to ridicule and fear.  I found the story moving showing how Winton used illegal passports and medical certificates to lay a master plan to get the Jewish children out of the country. Taking a chance at putting his own life in danger this man worked a miracle in getting 669 children out of Prague and into homes in Britain and other countries for their safety. Much like Schindler from the true story of Schindler’s List, Winton can only be called hero.  A man who unselfishly organized a rescue has made a difference in the lives of so many people who are still alive and have their own family trees.

The film Nicky’s Family has a lot of heart because of its writer director Matej Minac Born in Bratislava, Slovakia who put years into the project. Using every shred of available information, contacting and filming the now grown children saved by Winton, and even interviewing Winton himself, Minac should be commended for what he delivers to the screen.  He nicely lays out the conditions of the era showing news footage of the German take over, snapshots of the children, and dramatizations of what Winton saw and the stories told by survivors.  Minac also includes excerpts from his 60 minute documentary on Winton called “Power of Good”.

Nicky’s Family has not been rated by the MPAA, but contains some disturbing material.  The movie has spawned a project called “Care 2 Care” urging every American to sign a petition that will get Sir Nicholas Winton’s name in consideration for a Nobel Peace Prize. Please go to the following website to sign the petition:

http://www.change.org/petitions/czech-republic-nominate-sir-nicholas-winton-for-the-nobel-peace-prize

FINAL ANALYSIS: A film about the power of good for all to see lest we forget. [rating=6]  

Additional Film Information:

  • Cast: Narrated by Joe Schlesinger
  • Directed by: Matej Minac
  • Genre: Documentary with Reenactments, History
  • MPAA Rating: Unrated
  • Running Time: 1 hr 36 min
  • Opening Date: January 11, 2013
  • Distributed by: Menemsha Films

 

Nicky’s Family has received numerous awards including:

U.S. Awards

  • Audience Award – Best Film Three Rivers Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Film Scottsdale International Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary Pittsburgh Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Film Rockland County Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Best of the Fest – Documentary Hartford Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Choice Award – Best Documentary AJC Seattle Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Film Houston Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Film Charlotte Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Choice Award – Best Documentary Denver Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary Feature Atlanta Jewish Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary Feature Sedona International Film Festival 2012
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary Palm Beach Jewish Film Festival 2011

International Awards

  • Grand Prix Winner for Best Film XVII International TV Festival Bar, Montenegro
  • FIAT/IFTA Archive Achievement Award for Best Use of Archive
  • British Film Institute 2012, United Kingdom
  • Winner – SIGNIS Award Prix Italia 2012, Italy
  • Winner – Best Director Award MECEFF Festival 2012, Romania
  • Onion Seed Award – Best Film for Children and Youth
  • MakeDox Creative Documentary Festival 2012, Macedonia
  • Winner – Grand Prix Nine Gates Film Festival 2012, Czech Republic
  • Winner – Grand Prix 52nd Zlin Youth Film Festival 2012, Czech Republic
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary 6th Zagreb Jewish Film Festival 2012, Croatia
  • Winner – Best Screenplay Award Slovak Literary Union 2012, Slovak Republic
  • Slovak Film Critic’s Award – Best Documentary Film 2012, Slovak Republic
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary UK Jewish Film Festival 2011, United Kingdom
  • David Camera Award for Best Music Warsaw Jewish Film Festival 2011, Poland
  • Audience Award – Best Documentary Montreal World Film Festival 2011, Canada
  • Winner – Forum for the Preservation of Audio-Visual Memory Award
  • Jerusalem Film Festival 2011, Israel
  • Audience Award Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011, Czech Republic
  • Winner – Prize of the Mayor of Piestany IFF Cinematik, Slovak Republic
  • Winner – Prize of Oty Hofman for Best Film
  • Winner – Special Jury Prize for Film with the Most Impressive Moral Accent
  • Children’s Film Festival of Ota Hofman, Czech Republic

 

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Film Editor John Delia has been on all sides of the movie business from publications to film making. He has worked as a film critic with ACED Magazine for more than 12 years and earned a Bachelors degree in communications from the University of Florida. John is a member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. Follow John on Twitter @staragent1 or send John a message at jdelia@acedmagazine.com