Because I Was a Painter. Art that Survived Nazi Camps. A film by Christophe Cognet
The film conducts an unprecedented investigation of secretely created artworks in Nazi concentration and death camps. It converses with the rare handful of living artists who survived the camps and with those who curate their art: about the emotions the works conjure, their marginalization, their signatures or anonymity, their style, as well as the representation of horror and extermination.
But perhaps above all, it takes a long look at the drawings, wash drawings and paintings held in collections in France, Germany, Israel, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium and Switzerland. While transiting among these fragments of clandestine images and the vestiges of the camps, the film offers a sensitive quest amid faces, bodies and landscapes to explore the notion of artwork and confront the idea of beauty head-on.
The stakes are disturbing, but perhaps we can thus better imagine what the camps were truly like, and experience the honor of an artist, no matter how small or fragile the gesture of drawing is.
Christophe Cognet is a writer, screenwriter and director. For ten years he sought out artists who had survived the concentration camps, discovering their secret artworks. This film is the fruit of this long endeavor.
Documentary, 104 mn, France / Germany, 2013, La Huit Production
This film is supported by the Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah.