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Phillip Bergson


Writing about Films and Festivals.

 

Film Critic, UK, member of Fipresci

 

Winner of the Student Journalist of the Year competition in the UK weekly New Statesman, as a Classics Scholar Phillip Bergson then founded the Oxford Film Festival and, on graduating, was selected by "The Sunday Times" as a 'New Critic' and in the same week began broadcasting on film for many BBC Radio programmes. A contributor to the "Times Literary Supplement", "TES", "Screen International", "Film Bulletin", "Film a Doba" inter alia, he also worked for the "European Script Fund", has scripted shorts and features (that have been produced and released) and, fluent in eight-and-a-half languages, currently programmes and advises several international film festivals. At the National Media Museum in his native Yorkshire, he created the "Eurovisions" project, to promote classic and contemporary European cinema.

As a Jury Member

 


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Untold Stories of welcome in Albania

Who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it.In events around Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK,we think we have seen every grim aspect of the persecutions visited upon the Jewish people in the middle of the last century,(although the day itself-27th January-is increasingly  being designated a commemoration of genocide in general and not exclusively of the horrors instigated by the Nazis)-yet in a marvellously uplifting screening held (on 25th January 2011) at the recently revamped Jewish Museum in Camden Town, a short walk from London's Regent Park,a large and mixed audience was treated to an unusually positive memoir of the 1930s, and one including some very little-known history.For the evening's modest star was the eminent anthropologist Dr Scarlett Epstein, a sprightly 87-year-old who as a Viennese teenager had managed to save most of her immediate family by obtaining visas for them to Albania.His Excellency the Albanian Ambassador to the UK, Mr Zef Mazi ,made an eloquent and justifiably proud short speech of introduction explaining that his country was the only one in Europe where the Jewish population was larger after the Second World War than before it, and that not only did the largely Muslim Albanians save the entire Jewish community there, but it specifically welcomed Jewish refugees after King Zog had instructed consulates to issue such documents ,which most other countries were refusing to give to unfortunates whose passports bore the 'J' symbol imposed by Hitler's Reich on all Jewish citizens

.The newly-made 27-minute documentary Back from the Brink, well directed by Rick Wasserman, a veteran of CNN TV reportage who now runs the Consigo production company from Stockholm,unites Dr Epstein with two other then-children who found refuge eventually in Britain, and traditionally still meet once a year on the South Coast to celebrate their survival.The film is full of lively anedotes, and shows Dr Epstein returning to Durres, the old coastal capital of Albania, looking for evidence of her enforced sojourn there before the Second World War broke out, but when Mussolini's occupation of the country could also have spelled disaster for herself and the small group who had found temporary haven thanks to the Albanian tradition of "besa", of welcoming and protecting strangers.

The Hungarian broadcaster Gabriel Partos led a discussion after the screening which was rich in reminiscence, and tacitly spoke volumes of recrimination, though Dr Scarlett spoke amusingly and with little bitterness of her wartime exploits.When the time came for her to take her mother out of Albania and fly through Frankfurt and Cologne to London, where her elder brother had prepared papers for them to stay, no Hollywood scriptwriter could have concocted a more suspenseful journey, nor any copywriter a better advertisement for KLM, whose watchful steward managed to rescue their passports from the spiteful Nazi immigration guards who had made them strip in transit  from Albania to Albion.A new synagogue, coincidentally, was opened in Tirana, in December 2010.

The Holocaust Memorial Programme at the Jewish Museum continues with a screening of The World was Ours:The Jewish Legacy of Vilna on Wednesday 9th February 2011 at 7pm. Tickets cost 10 UK pounds and include admission to the galleries.  Further information on  www.jewishmuseum.org.uk

Phillip Bergson

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