This is the incredible story of a New York spelunker, Chris Nicola, who discovers the largest gypsum cave in the Ukraine. At least he thinks he’s discover it until he finds a shoe, cookware, a cup, and a key. This sends him on the hunt to find out who lived these caves.
What he uncovers is one of the most astounding stories of survival in history. The heroes in this case wasn’t an explorer but rather an extended Jewish family led by the matriarch of the family. To escape the persecution of the German invasion of the Ukraine in World War 2, she led 38 family members into the cave and there they survived for the next 511 days. The boys would sneak out at night, risking capture and death, for food and supplies while the women stayed in the cave.
The film is a mixture of interviews with the surviving family members, old photographs, and reenactments. The reenactments are incredibly well done, the story is wonderfully told and filmed. I could really see this film being used in a classroom setting to discuss the Holocaust as well as how should a community respond to such overt persecution and racism. (On the film’s website, there is an educator’s packet.)
The determination of the mother, the love of the family for each other, and the sheer will to live shines through the film. I highly recommend this film. One of the best documentaries I’ve seen this year.
This title is currently available on Netflix.