August 31, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Bianca Stigter
Some language in Polish with subtitles
Culture Representation: In the documentary film “Three Minutes—A Lengthening,” an all-white group of people (some who are American, some who are European) talk about a 1938 three-minute film of residents of Nasielsk, Poland, a city that was devastated by the Holocaust and other Nazi oppression.
Culture Clash: Most of the city’s Jewish residents were either murdered or displaced because of the Holocaust.
Culture Audience: “Three Minutes—A Lengthening” will appeal mainly to people who are interested in personal and intimate stories about the Holocaust and Polish history.
The documentary “Three Minutes—A Lengthening” has a three-minute, amateur silent film as its centerpiece, but this non-fiction movie is an effective story of the long-lasting and devastating effects of the Holocaust. The three-minute film was taken in 1938, and it shows less than two dozen residents of Nasielsk, Poland, which had a population of about 7,000 people at the time. Of those 7,000 residents, about 3,000 were Jewish people. By the end of World War II in 1945, most of the Jewish people of Nasielsk would be murdered or displaced because of the Holocaust.
Directed by Bianca Stigter and narrated by Helena Bonham Carter, “Three Minutes—A Lengthening” begins by showing the three-minute film, which is a montage of people gathered outside. Most of the people in the three-minute film are aware of the camera and seem to be fascinated by it, since hand-held film cameras were considered a new invention at the time. It’s a “slice of life” film that shows everyday people going about their lives and reacting to being filmed. It’s even more poignant knowing that the people in the movie had no idea about the death and destruction that would come with the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939.
The person who recorded the film was David Kurtz, a Polish native (born in 1988) who immigrated to the United States, where he lived in Brooklyn, New York. At the time, Kurtz was on a European vacation with his wife and three friends named Mr. and Mrs Louis Melina and S.E. Diamond, who Louis Melina’s older sister. Poland was an unexpected detour on this trip. Kurtz took his film camera with him, not knowing at the time that these would be the last photographic images of many of the Nasielsk residents before the Holocaust.
Decades later, David’s grandson Glenn Kurtz found the footage and donated it to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Glenn is the main commentator of “Three Minutes—A Lengthening,” who tells his stories about his quest to find anyone from the film who was still alive or anyone who had more information about the people in the three-minute film. “Three Minutes—A Lengthening” also includes commentary from Maurice Chandler, who was in the three-minute film when he was a 13-year-old boy.
Everyone commenting in “Three Minutes—A Lengthening” is heard only in voiceover. Other interviewees include Andrzej Lubieniecki (who lived from 1919 to 2017), a former resident of Nasielsk; Evelyn Chandler Rosen (Maurice Chandler’s daughter); Marcy Rosen (Maurice Chandler’s granddaughter); author Zdzisław Suwiński; and author Katarzyna Kacprzak. Marcy Rosen was the one who contacted Glenn Kurtz to inform him that her grandfather Maurice was in the three-minute film.
“Three Minutes—A Lengthening” starts off with lighthearted stories that give an analysis of what people were wearing and how it signified which type of Jewish clique they were in at the time. For example, boys who wore newsboy caps were supposed to be in a different clique than boys who wore black hats with short brims. But the stories gets darker and brutal when it’s described what eventually happened when Adolf Hitler’s Nazis invaded Nasielsk. These are Holocaust stories that have been told before, but they are no less impactful in a 72-minute movie like “Three Minutes—A Lengthening.”
Super LTD released “Three Minutes—A Lengthening” in select U.S. cinemas on August 19, 2022.