Skip to main content

IF THE WALLS COULD SPEAK

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".

See also...

THE TROUBLES WE'VE SEEN (1ST AND 2ND JOURNEYS)

Marcel Ophuls has an unbeatable opening to The Troubles We've Seen: A History of Joumalism in Wartime: the true story of how World War II was declared on the very day his father, Max Ophuls, was ... More »

20 DATES

A docudrama so real you'll wish it was fiction! Myles Berkowitz is recently separated and has rejection slips piling up beside his daft screenplays. Ever the go-getter, Myles decides to combine his ... More »

THE SOURCE

Chuck Workman's exemplary enquiry into the Beats takes a longer view than the typical canonisation of goatees, jazz and reefer that bogs down too many similar projects. The director places his work ... More »

LET IT COME DOWN: THE LIFE OF PAUL BOWLES

Against the backdrop of the exotic landscape of North Africa, the enigma of iconoclastic writer Paul Bowles begins to unravel. Most well known tor his masterful The Sheltering Sky, which Bernardo ... More »

THUG LIFE IN D.C.

On the streets of Washington there is a war going on. Teenage thugs armed with automatic weapons run many of the inner city blocks. Fully half of the black men aged between 18 and 35 are stuck ... More »

MEGACITIES

Bombay. Mexico City, Moscow, New York. These four 'megacities' have populations of between eight and 24 million people, numbers unprecedented in human history. Austrian documentary maker Michael ... More »

Select a festival
Search The Film Archive
Browse By Director