Parents' Guide to

Destination Unknown

By Michael Ordona, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Harrowing stories of Holocaust survivors.

Movie NR 2017 81 minutes
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The movie's powerful mix of archival documentation and intimate interviews provides another valuable addition to the historical record of the Holocaust. Some of the survivors return to the scenes of some of the worst crimes against humanity the world has ever known. One takes the camera crew to the spot where he last saw his mother. Some provide nightmarish descriptions of the actual conditions inside the camps, the sights and smells. Others give firsthand accounts of the unspeakable cruelty of monsters like the infamous Amon Göth (unforgettably portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Schindler's List). And then there are stories of those true heroes who retained their humanity during this time of monsters: families who risked their lives to hide Jews, prisoners who got to know Oskar Schindler himself.

Unfortunately, director Claire Ferguson underscores most of the film with portentous music. There's nothing wrong with the score itself, which is beautifully executed, but it's unnecessary to try to dictate viewers' emotional response during these heartbreaking, gut-wrenching stories. The overuse of the score gives the film's deeply affecting and completely individual accounts a kind of cinematic sameness; it comes between the viewer and the experience. The rare moments without the filmmaker's heavy hand are the ones that work best. Also, the 12 interviewees' stories aren't assembled in a manner that feels cohesive chronologically, thematically, or emotionally. Still, despite these flaws, Destination Unknown remains a welcome, if painful, entry into the recognition of this dark chapter of our history.

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