Opening night of the 2011 SBIFF was opened with the strong film “Sarah’s Key” directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner.
Introducing the film was SBIFF’s Roger Durling who lifted up SBIFF and other film festivals as vibrant expressions of the best of democracy–where creative expression spurs careful and intelligent discussion of the most important values and issues of our societies. With that sentiment in mind, “Sarah’s Key” was an apt film to kick off the festival for it opens doors to discuss history, collective memory, shades of guilt, and oppression’s many forms.

It is a story of a young girl’s experience of France’s ghettoizing and deportation of Jews into the hands of Nazi Germany and the impact that her memory and legacy created through later generations. What places “Sarah’s Key” in a unique place among the many good films made on the subject of the Holocaust is it confrontation with the lived impact that reverberates still through the generation of those whose families and country were complicit in the genocide.

The film’s theme is stated by a reporter who is driven to uncover the untold story of a Holocaust survivor when she says, “The truth is always better, whether we like it or not.”

The truth in this film is costly. As the characters in the film are made to confront the past and separate the truth from the fictions, they are devastated and changed–ultimately for the better.

The film’s two concurrent story lines of the 1930’s and contemporary time were not well balanced and give the film an uneven feel. The acting in the ‘contemporary’ scenes is not as strong and the film’s desire to capture so many of the events from the book which gave it its inspiration bog it down.

Despite its weaknesses, this powerful and memorable film was a great kick-off to the 26th year of SBIFF.