Tropic Sprockets / I Am Here

By Ian Brockway

“I Am Here” by Director Jordy Sank is the story of Ella Blumenthal, a Holocaust survivor. The story is brisk, emotional and deeply affecting. Told in Blumenthal’s own voice, this documentary is undeniably compelling.

Blumenthal was born in Warsaw. She was a mischievous center of fun and quirks. 

As a teen, she was listening to music, when suddenly she heard warplanes. The Nazis had arrived. Most of her family were killed. She was left with her father and niece Roma. Her father was later murdered. Blumenthal and Roma were left to fend for themselves and were sent to a gas chamber, but just as the gas was about to arrive, a door opened. The horrid quota had already been met. The two girls were spared.

In frank detail the sad events are emotively related through animation. When we see her face glare into the camera, we are looking at truth and wisdom in the guise of Ella Blumenthal.

Blumenthal at age 98 now is determined to enjoy life. She cites her faith as her reason she and Roma survived. “It wasn’t luck. Somebody up there is looking out for me,” Blumenthal says. The animation pairs excellently with her words. The action, heart-rending and horribly true, has the workings of a suspense story. Again and again, Blumenthal escapes death along with Roma in the nick of time. The one minor reservation in the animation is perhaps the sentimentality of a blue butterfly in a landscape of gray rubble recalling “Schindler’s List” with its sudden burst of color. But then, why not?

Friends and strangers alike flock to Blumenthal believing she has supernatural powers for good given that she has survived such a horrendous ordeal, but she only smiles. “I pray to Ashem.”

In watching the film as she smiles, taking a step in her teal blue suit and sneakers as well as talking to Roma also in her 90s, you will be reaching for a tissue, but such emotion is raw, unforced and well justified.

“I Am Here” is a profoundly moving documentary and the sight of Ella laughing, joking and revealing the young girl inside her that is very much alive packs a punch. 

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