Toronto native Davina Pardo was in the midst of furiously refreshing the Academy Awards website when an email popped into her inbox with thrilling news.
Pardo learned her documentary “116 Cameras,” about Anne Frank’s stepsister Eva Schloss, is among the 10 contenders in the running for a documentary short film Oscar nomination.
Pardo, who worked as David Cronenberg’s assistant for two years before moving to the U.S. for film school, said she had been anxiously awaiting the news.
“I had been refreshing (the Oscar) website because I knew the announcement was coming … and then I ended up getting an email directly from them,” she said. “I was thrilled.”
The documentary, a 15-minute USA-UK co-production, explores trauma, memory and technology through 88-year-old Holocaust survivor Schloss. The film captures the process of Schloss retelling her memories in front of an array of cameras to create an interactive hologram of her that can interact with future generations.
Pardo said she decided to make the film after learning about the hologram project from an Associated Press article a few years ago. She was fascinated, Pardo said, but didn’t immediately know how to feel about the project.
“Sometimes that’s the best way to go into a film, just not knowing exactly what it means and what you feel about something,” she said.
The hologram initiative was started by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation in an effort to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors.
“Growing up in Toronto, we always had survivors coming to our classrooms, and often it was someone’s grandmother or grandfather,” Pardo said. “That history was so close to us.
“When I read about the project, it sort of drove home the shift that was happening with the living history of the Holocaust. I thought it was a good moment to look back and think about what the role of the Holocaust survivor has been, and what it means for them now, to be preserving their story in a new way.”
One of the holograms was on display at Toronto’s Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre earlier this year. They’ve also been shown in museums in Chicago and New York, where Schloss was able to interact with her own hologram earlier this week, Pardo said.
In the film, Schloss says she got involved in the hologram project because she thinks education is more important now than ever.
“Everybody said, ‘Never again, Auschwitz. We have learned our lesson.’ But it looks bad again, in the world,” she says in an early scene.
Pardo said today’s political climate also inspired her to make the movie.
“My connection to the Holocaust, it’s been about history, but it’s also been about connecting to the current events,” she said. “Looking around the world, it’s pretty dismal. But that’s definitely the hope, that Eva’s story can give people hope or inspire someone.”
The Oscar nominations will be announced on Jan. 23, 2018.
On the web:
“116 Cameras” is available to stream for free on the New York Times video channel Op-Docs: https://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000005201010/116-cameras.html