UK / France, 1998 (MIFF 1999, Documentaries)
Director: Daniela Zanzotto
Today, La Muette, a housing estate on the outskirts of Paris, houses migrants and people of low income. Previously, it interned 67,000 Jews on their way to concentration camps. If the Walls Could Speak traces the history of this building and deals wilh France's involvement in the Holocaust in a daring and unique way.
The film reaches beyond the walls of the estate to question institutionalised racism in France and to look at the rising popularity of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front. Through oral testimonies which blend personal and collective memories, If the Walls Could Speak makes the past relevant today. The documentary's historical relevance comes into full light when it is revealed that the housing estate—when originally built in the 1930s—was considered a model of public housing for the future. That this estate could eventually have been used for such an horrific purpose is a reminder of the potential horror that lies around any corner, exposing the naivete of the all too common belief that 'it couldn't happen here'.
Zanzotto had personal connections to the story of the Jewish people interned at La Muette through her grandfather, who spent time in the camp in 1944. She states that this was only one factor in making the film: "It was a starting point to look at the history of racism in France and the situation of immigration today".