Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"Giacchino makes all the right choices. He gives the women room physical and emotional space, pulling the camera back rather than crowding in." | Photo: Facebook Oculus/Respawn/Guardian

This documentary, like many others concerning Second World War concentration camps, is filled with horrific statistics, including the stark fact that, of the 60,000 people who passed through the Nazi's Mittelbau-Dora slave-labour camp in Nordhausen, a third died. But Anthony Giacchino's Oscar-nominated short goes beyond the numbers to consider them via just one of the lives that was lost - that of Jean-Pierre Catherine and the experience of Colette Marin-Catherine who, at 90, embarks on a journey to the camp where her teenage brother was killed.

Accompanying her on this first trip even to Germany is history student Lucie Fouble, who is documenting biographies of those who died in the camp, and whose empathy for Marin-Catherine leaps from every frame the pair are in together. Marin-Catherine, who was a resistance fighter in France herself, shows and articulates the lasting impact of the war on so many families, expressing her anger at the idea of people touring camps and their "morbid tourism".

Copy picture

"Once I cross the border into Germany, I won't ever be the same," she notes, aware that difficult emotions await her at the camp. Lucie, too, has never been to a concentration camp, meaning this is also fresh emotional territory for her. Giacchino takes a measured and non-sensationalist approach to this story, allowing us to get to know Colette and Lucie before they take the trip, outlining how she and her brother joined different resistance groups to minimise the chances of both being caught. Colette, who describes her brother as "made of steel" plays down her involvement saying, "You talk about heroism. It was my ass on stone taking notes.", but we can see she is made from the same stuff.

By the time they're in a German restaurant, with a mayor whose grandstanding speech shows a depressing lack of awareness of the psychological juggernaut Colette is facing, we are fully wedded to their perspective. What follows on the camp visit is, as you would, expect deeply moving, but Giacchino makes all the right choices. He gives the women room physical and emotional space, pulling the camera back rather than crowding in. The experience for both of them is both overwhelming but also affirms some of the best things about humanity, in the way it shows how this shared connection across the generations offers an empathetic, supportive way forward even in the face of the most horrifying acts and lasting trauma.

Colette is available to watch for free at The Guardian

Reviewed on: 17 Mar 2021
Share this with others on...
Colette packshot
A former French resistance fighter visits the concentration camp where her brother died for the first time.

Director: Anthony Giacchino

Writer: Anthony Giacchino

Starring: Lucie Fouble, Colette Marin-Catherine

Year: 2020

Runtime: 24 minutes

Country: France, Germany, US


Search database:

If you like this, try: