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Inside Hana’s Suitcase Premieres on CBC

We interview George and Lara Brady to talk about the documentary and a new interactive project.
By: Ilan Mester
Published: March 6th, 2011 in Culture » Film » Interviews
George Brady with the actress who played young HanaPic: Rhombus media

Hana Brady is a name that rings a bell to kids throughout the world. Her true-life story was transformed into a book that has been translated into more than 40 language and has touched the lives of millions of children.

Hana’s Suitcase, the 2002 book written by Karen Levine, lead to an award-winning radio documentary and a play that has been staged around the globe. Hana's compelling story has also lead to a Canadian documentary by Larry Weinstein that was released in 2009 Inside Hana’s Suitcase is having its national broadcast premiere tonight at 8 a.m. on CBC.

The film tells the story of two Jewish children who grew up in pre-World War II Czechoslovakia and the hardships they faced during the war. Inside Hana’s Suitcase also tells the present-day story of Fumiko Ishioka, a dedicated teacher, and her students in Japan. The group receives a battered suitcase from Auschwitz and together, they try to find out what happened to Hana Brady, whose name is painted onto the suitcase.

The movie combines traditional documentary techniques with a captivating re-enactment of the story of Hana and her older brother George Brady, who survived the Holocaust. Brady and his daughter, Lara, have been involved with the Hana’s Suitcase project for more than 10 years.

“One of the biggest gambles is when you give away your story and ask someone else to share it and we were just so lucky,” says Lara about all of the adaptations of Hana’s story.

Both of them are more than satisfied with how the film turned out and are equally amazed at the number of children that have connected to the story. “I’m always wondering myself,” George admits. “You see how many book on this subject are around, you wonder why this one.”

“They feel such a strong connection that they feel like we’re their neighbours,” adds Lara. “It’s just amazing.”

To this day, George, Lara and Fumiko receive hundreds upon hundreds of letters. “My favourite letter is from a nine-year-old girl who wrote to me, ‘I just read Hana’s Suitcase. It’s the best book I ever read. If you never heard about it, I’ll tell what it’s all about,’ ” George laughs. He sends back a photograph of Hana to every child that sends him a letter and so far, he’s printed more than 5,000.

George and his daughter have been to virtually every continent to talk to children. They’ve taken the film to countries as far as China, where the screening surpassed 2,000 viewers.

While there were plenty of memorable moments during the shooting the film, Lara recounts an early morning with her father inside of Auschwitz as particularly important for her. “As his daughter and as his best friend and his partner for the last 10 years in all of this story, that was sort of horrifying and wonderful in the sense that you know, it’s horrifying to think of any of your family members in difficult situations. But I thought that this to me is the ultimate revenge, like how amazing is it that after such a blow and such tragedy he’s come along such a way and he’s willing to talk about his experiences.”

Lara respects Holocaust survivors who are unable to tell their story, but has a great deal of respect for her father for being able to share his experiences. “I respect him so much for being able to stand up and give his testimony because unfortunately in the next few years we won’t have any survivors left so I’m just so proud that he’s been able to leave this incredible testimony,” she says.

The father-daughter duo hope that Hana's story inspires children to stand up against prejudice and get involved in their communities. The Hana’s Suitcase project hasn’t ended with the film an interactive site is being launched tonight. The web documentary was nominated for a Digital Emmy Award and allows kids to explore Hana’s story.

Fore more informtion about the web portal, visit www.insidehanassuitcase.com. For more information about Hana and George’s story, visit www.hanassuitcase.com.

Related articles: Rhombus Media
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Inside Hana’s Suitcase Premieres on CBC

We interview George and Lara Brady to talk about the documentary and a new interactive project.

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