No Place on Earth (2012) is a documentary co-written and directed by Janet Tobias. This film is really three films in one.
The first film is the story of an experienced U.S. caver (spelunker), Chris Nicola, who traveled to Ukraine to explore huge caves that he thought had never been visited. While underground, he came upon some fascinating items--buttons, shoes, combs. Nicola happens to be a professional investigator. He set about trying to solve the mystery of who had left these items behind. When he asked people in the vicinity, he came up against a stone wall of indifference or opposition. He received a few hints that maybe some Jews had (literally) gone underground. However, he couldn't get any hard data. Finally, when he had almost given up, he made connection with one of the survivors of this amazing story.
Nicola learned that 38 Jewish men, women, and children had entered one cave, and then another, and had survived the brutal Nazi determination to kill them all. The men went out at night to obtain supplies, but the women and children stayed underground for 511 days! Many of the then-young people are still alive. All of them retain an almost photographic memory for what happened during the period.
The second movie-within-a-movie is skillfully produced by director Tobias. She has recreated scenes from the period. (After all, no one was taking photographs, let alone film footage, in the caves.) The recreated scenes struck me as very realistic. Also, of course, before the filming began, the survivors provided the director with the factual information that she needed. In any event, the images were so realistic that it was sometimes hard to remember that this part of the movie was docudrama, and not documentary.
Finally, the third film-within-a film follows four of the survivors as they return to Ukraine, with Nicola, and descend again, 70 years after they entered the cave for the first time. As would be expected, this part of the film is very moving and powerful. These people survived the war, they left Ukraine, and they came back to savor their victory over the oppressors.
We saw this movie at the Rochester Jewish Community Center as part of the splendid Rochester Jewish Film Festival. It will work well on DVD. As I write this review, the film has an anemic 6.4 IMDb rating. Don't be mislead by that rating. It's a wonderful movie, worth finding and seeing.
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