BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER
Christophe Cognet (b. 1966) has already dealt with world events in many documentaries and film essays and always subjects our worldview to an exact examination. As in his two films about Africa: LA VOIX DES GÉNIE (“THE VOICE OF THE GENIUS”) and GONGGONBILI. LA VOIX DES GÉNIE has had a very successful festival career and is about musicians, whereas GONGGONBILI portraits an African rebel village, where coronation oath, systematic revenge and banditry mingle with each other.
Furthermore, he realised the following films: LES SENTIERS DE FRED VARGAS (“THE WAYS OF FRED VARGAS”), LA PLANÈTE PERDUE (“THE LOST PLANET”) – a film that reflects on American serials, and LA MER EN COLIMACON – an analysis in images of Fellini’s Ship of Dreams. In addition, Christophe Cognet has reconstructed an unfinished film by Orson Welles about the Dominic affair that caused great attention of many critics and was also represented at numerous festivals worldwide.
"What deeply moved me was the terrible beauty of all those bodies piled up like branches on a funeral pyre, with hands and feet poking out. I was fascinated by the tragic elegance... It was absolutely necessary to reproduce, represent and show that, in order to preserve it for what came after." - Zoran Music
The art created in Nazi camps is unknown to most of us: it is hard to imagine the desire to create art under these circumstances, and also that it was actually possible within concentration camps. And yet, nearly 30,000 works have survived from the camps. 30,000 – a considerable number, and one which is completely unacknowledged.
How can we speak about beauty and aesthetic pleasure in a concentration camp?
With this film, I set off to discover firsthand the works secretly produced in Nazi concentration camps between 1933 and 1945. Seeking out the drawings, wash drawings and paintings held in different collections meant opening up boxes, closets and drawers, unwrapping tissue paper in France, Germany, Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, etc.
I visited the Holocaust memorial museums, art and history museums, the sites of former concentration camps and the memorials associated with them: in Auschwitz I and II, in Theresienstadt, Buchenwald, Hinzert, Dachau, Ravensbruck, Dora, Sobibor, etc.
I talked with the people who are currently responsible for the works: museum directors, curators and historians. We carefully handled these fragile works made out of newspaper, stationary, packaging or scraps of posters... There is a wide variety of materials and techniques used; we recognise graphite pencil, ink, felt-tip marker, charcoal, sometimes chalk, clay, dust... The bits of paper vary in size but are generally no larger than half a page. Some works are sketches, while others, much fewer, are highly elaborate and carefully executed in color. There are portraits, genre works and scenes of everyday life, landscapes, figure studies, erotic drawings, vanitas, etc.