The Girl From Salonika (documentary)
About the Director
Alison is an Australian filmmaker, writer and political scientist based in Spain. She has worked in the NFP sector for 15 years as a communications strategist and has worked in teams nominated for human rights awards. She made the move over to documentary film four years ago after studying film in London & Spain. Her current film EXIT has been selected for the San Diego International Film Festival in the best ‘social justice’ category and will be screened across Europe and the US in the coming months. She has been an invited filmmaker panelist at the Cambridge Symposium on Human Trafficking and CESE summit on exploitation. She works with several governmental equality departments to have the film shown in schools, youth centres as well as in cinema. She believes documentary film can highlight injustices, spark change and are often invaluable educational tools which also leave lasting impacts on their audience.
A 17-year-old Fofo is deported to Auschwitz and is a victim of Nazi sterilisation treatments at the hands of Nazi doctor Dr Horst Schumann in Block 10. Her survival is due to Jewish nurse Fela, and prisoner doctor Samuel who ultimately gives his life for Fofo’s. We learn her story through her psychologist grandson Carlos as we journey to Auschwitz and family diaries. Fofo ultimately completes her Sephardi Exodus and lives on in Spain.
My interest in telling this story goes back to my childhood. From seeing my parents bring home new friends who were having a ‘tough time’. This could have been one of my dad’s World War II veteran friends resting in our sunroom (I learnt later on in life they were all suffering from PTSD and there was little to none social support in place). Or the busy kitchen my mum ran at a Catholic boarding school, she tried to find everyone a decent job for the vast number of refugees arriving often alone and with little resources, and to restore dignity where she could. I was already familiar with World War II as my father served in the Australian army. But I didn’t learn about the Holocaust or the Shoah until my mother explained to me about our neighbour Zelda. I remember Zelda’s blue eyes, clear and blue but terribly sad. My Mum told me in a simple way, a terrifying story that was actually real.
This is not unlike Carlos Mordoh’s first learnings of the Holocaust the main protagonist in The Girl From Salonika. He was around 8 too, when his grandmother began slowly explaining her story to him.
“I was 8 or 9 years old when my grandmother explained to me in an incomplete and disorderly way, little by little my paternal grandmother explained to me her passage through that hell”.
And now we have found each other in Barcelona, Spain. I am extremely grateful to be a finalist in the Claims Conference Emerging Filmmaker Contest as more people need to get to know Fofo and for her story not to be lost. I believe in the importance of education and memory and I hope for this film to be an educational tool. With the presence of far right groups in many nations, holocaust denial and rising antisemitism, it is an important time to make this film.