Marina Willer has launched a Kickstarter for Red Trees, a film about her family, one of only twelve Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague. Red Trees is based on Marina's father - Alfred - memories, who was a child during the war.
The film recounts the exceptional circumstances in which Alfred and his family were able to survive. His father was a master chemist who co-created the formula for citric acid - a recipe that he hid from the Gestapo in his wife’s recipe book. His scientific achievements afforded them the opportunity to survive. Later they moved to Brazil under the guise of a research project into improving the taste of soya for use to produce food.
To create Red Trees Marina has teamed up with César Charlone, the Oscar nominated cinematographer of City of God and The Constant Gardener. Together they are retracing her father’s journey Prague to Rio, traveling from industrial Eastern Europe to colourful South America.
Alfred is an architect and developed a prolific career in Brazil. He first discovered his love of architecture in when he was in Prague. To reflect this, the film is told through spaces, buildings, architecture using it to create pathos, awe and hope.
"We use architecture in the film as a way contain the memories of what happened within them, inviting the audience to use their imagination," says Marina. "One of the most challenging shoots for me was in the Old New Synagogue, where the names of all the Jewish people who died in concentration camps are written. Seeing my great-great grandmother's name there was heart-breaking. We also filmed in the Terezín Concentration camp where more than 150,000 people were held during the Nazi occupation."
The title Red Trees is in reference to Alfred’s colour blindness, which became apparent when he drew trees covered in red leaves as a child in Czechoslovakia. The title also reflects the film's goal of celebrating colour and difference.
Willer launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to finish Red Trees on 11 November. The campaign raised half of its £40,000 goal in the first week, with rewards including a logo designed by Marina, photographs by César and a private screening of the film. The Kickstarter still needs another £20,000 to finalise production, but engagement so far has been exceptional.
“We felt that Red Trees belonged on a crowdfunding platform,” says Marina. “Although its details are deeply personal, it addresses the universal problem of displacement, which has taken on a new relevance with the refugee crisis in Europe. It celebrates richness of diversity, the beauty of colour and the hope that multiculturalism creates. We wanted to open the doors to everyone to be a part of the film and its journey, no matter how much or how little they could give.”