Some stories are never easy to revisit.
In How Saba Kept Singing, 94-year-old David Wisnia (affectionately called ‘Saba’ by his grandchildren) found it too difficult to explain what took place during his time in Auschwitz-Birkenau to his family . On the 70th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, his grandson Avi accompanies Wisnia on a trip to Poland. Along the way, Wisnia opens up about his experiences in the concentration camp, including the singing voice that pleased the guards and the love affair that gave him the will to live.
Directed by Sara Taksler, How Saba Kept Singing is a heart-warming and heart-wrenching story that takes the viewer inside the walls of Auschwitz with one of the more harrowing WWII tales in many years. Centering on Wisnia’s experiences, the film gives him the freedom to tell his incredible on his own terms and in his own way. Through his openness and honesty, the film draws the viewer into the barbed walls of Auschwitz to gain deeper insight into the traumatic events that he experienced.
However, this is much more than a story of immeasurable evil. With humour and humility, Saba quickly becomes a story of love and finding hope in the darkness. Highlighting his relationship with Zippi, Taksler recognizes that their connection sparked life within them. Like a flower blooming in the desert, their relationship inspired their souls in a space devoid of life. The support and sacrifices made by the two lovers gave each other the strength necessary to survive.
One of the more unique aspects of Saba is its discussion regarding the saving grace of creativity Whether through song or painting, the arts are shown as therapeutic and life-giving. Held in captivity by the forces of darkness, the ability to create keeps Saba and those around him motivated to live another day. To them, it becomes a coping mechanism that breathes life, even if their world is crashing down around them.
Even at the age of 94, Wisnia understands the importance of song, not only for himself but also to pass on the story to the next generation. With each performance, Wisnia helps his grandson to connect with their family’s history at a deeper level. By allowing him to gain a taste of the past, Avi becomes increasingly aware of the rise of anti-Semitism in today’s culture and inspires him to action. In this way, because Saba Kept Singing, the next generation has the opportunity to sing a new song today as well.
How Saba Kept Singing is now playing at HotDocs ‘22. For screening information, click here.