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Picking up the Pieces



The film explores the perspectives of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors as they rebuilt their lives after the Second World War. Answering the question, “How do you “live” after surviving the Holocaust?” the film builds a nuanced and complex portrait of the survivors’ struggles through the lens of key universal questions about Belief in God, Forgiveness, Home, Jewish identity and Memory. Nine survivor’s voices are interwoven together and merge into a choral ensemble telling the previously untold story of the efforts of child survivors to build normal and productive lives from tragic beginnings. Child survivors are now the last living witnesses of the Holocaust. Their struggle, bittersweet reflections, hope and energy are poignant and uplifting testament to the human spirit.

Cast & Credits

Director: Joshua Tebeau

Writer: Joshua Tebeau

About The Director

Director: Joshua Tebeau

Joshua Tebeau: Cinematographer/DP, Director, Editor, Producer, Story, Writer;

Joshua Tebeau is the Writer, Director and Producer of “Picking Up the Pieces,” a short documentary film telling the story of the recovery of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors. Joshua began the project 4 years ago. During the past year he has spent an intensive 12 months filming and editing the project.

Joshua is 18-years old, and a student (’16) at Deerfield Academy, a prep school in Western Massachusetts. He is a Bronfman Youth Fellow (2015). Josh was able to start the film on receiving a “Cost Family Award” from Deerfield Academy. This award is used to help students independently start ambitious projects and bring their learnings back to campus.

Joshua’s film tells a widely untold story: child survivors remained silent, initially too young to tell their stories, and often traumatized by their childhood experiences, most have only started to speak publicly in the last decade. Josh’s film looks at the ‘recovery’ of these children from a unique perspective.

Joshua’s interests include History, Film, and Poetry. He is a student at Deerfield with leadership roles in ‘The Scroll,’ student newspaper, ‘Albany Road,’ the literary magazine and has been the Head of the Deerfield Academy Chapter of Amnesty International.

Josh was born and raised in Warsaw, Poland. He has been a volunteer in the Educational Department of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw. He has translated between Polish and English on a number of events. He attended a Summer language program in Yiddish in 2014. Joshua has volunteered working with Chechen Refugees as well. He has won a number of debate and public speaking awards both at the American School of Warsaw and at Deerfield Academy. Recently he gave a TEDx presentation entitled, “In Search of Lost Time” about the effect of the modern cinema on our experience of time.

Director’s Statement

Picking Up the Pieces is a meditation on the emotional and material experiences of Jewish children rebuilding their lives, adrift in the reconstruction of Europe. It stands as a universal testament to the trauma of child survivors of genocide and war.

I have spent the last 4 years conceptualizing and making this film. I hope the audience gains significant insight into the struggles of children as they contend with memory, identity, forgiveness, belief in God and coping, against the backdrop of reconstructed lives.

When beginning to conceptualize this film – inspired by meeting a Child survivor – I looked for films about the group of child survivors. Despite the large body of Holocaust documentaries, I was very surprised to see that there were no documentary films in English about child survivors as a group. Furthermore, there were no films focused on capturing the unique elements of childhood trauma and recovery.

As I began to make this film I learned why: the Children, initially too young and bewildered to speak for themselves, grew up in the shadows of their relatives who provided ample testimony to the horrors of the Holocaust. Sometimes ashamed, sometimes guilt-ridden, sometimes not sure of their memories, these children rebuilt their lives as best they could. Only as they grew older, nearing retirement, and becoming the last eyewitnesses, have we started to hear their individual stories, and then usually as part of a standardized recorded testimony.

The perspective of the children has fascinated me; I was a similar age as some of the survivors whom I’ve interviewed for this film. As I made the film, I’ve also had to address an artistic challenge: The body of films that make up the Holocaust documentary is huge and it is very traditional, focused on what happened during the Holocaust. Since my focus is on ‘recovery’, I needed to find a suitable alternative approach.

I have accomplished this by borrowing an innovative narrative technique from the significant body of literature about child survivors. The technique, called the ‘choral effect’, is adapted from the writings of Henryk Grynberg, an award-winning author and one of the survivors I interview in the film. This in fact makes my film a bit unorthodox in its approach to the narrative style and conveying the story of child survivors.

The ‘choral effect’ is where the director takes several different voices and chains them together to create one cohesive overarching narrative. In my film, you see this technique through the way I cut the interviews together where the survivors literally complete each other’s sentences and thoughts (despite being an incredibly diverse group). Unadorned, emotionally charged and direct, the film becomes a personal dialogue between the viewer and the Child Survivor.

The individual survivors’ stories are very different. And indeed, the diversity of childhood survivors is if anything, one of the amazing features they share. My film unites these stories into a whole and also uses these stories to explore major themes caused by a lost and traumatic childhood, that is followed by an adulthood filled with questions like: Where am I from?, How do I deal with the memories I have, or the information that I don’t?, Do I forgive?, Where is my home? and Where was God?’.

I have further experimented with the audience expectations of the short documentary, turning several conventions of the documentary on its head. For instance, the survivors are not identified as they speak but at the end of the film. Their testimony, given anonymously, is challenging to a viewer who wants easy answers.

The film does not provide easy answers to the questions it asks. Instead it forces us to consider them for ourselves and, as a result, we see beyond the Holocaust.

Those who are familiar with subsequent genocides and the traumatic effect of war on children will see ‘Picking Up the Pieces’ as more than a Holocaust documentary.


Film Information:

Category: Short Documentary

Language: English, French, Polish

Premiere Status: East Coast Premiere

Runtime: 27 Minutes 27 Seconds

Film Completion Year: 2015


Screening Information:

Screening Details:
Saturday, October 10th, 2015
Cinépolis Coconut Grove
CocoWalk, 3015 Grand Avenue, Miami, FL 33133

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