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Blinky & Me

Distributed by Smoking Mirror Productions, 215 West 79th Street #4A, New York, NY 10024; 212 721 9819
Produced by Janusz Skalkowski
Directed by Tomasz Magierski
DVD, color, 75 min.
Sr. High-General Adult
Animation, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Jewish Studies, World War II

Reviewed by Mary Northrup, Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods, Kansas City, Missouri

Date Entered: 6/25/2012

For fans of “the story behind the story,” this film will appeal. Yoram Gross, the creator of the popular Australian animated series Blinky Bill, relates the story of his life, especially the horrors of World War II. As a young Jewish boy in Poland during the war, he experienced relentless loss and deprivation. The film combines scenes in his present-day home Australia, and in Poland, where he travels to trace his past. His five grandchildren accompany him on his trip; their questions to him are natural in bringing out some of the details of his experiences. The obvious affection between grandfather and grandchildren brings an added dimension to the film.

Effective use is made of old photos and archival footage, interspersed with live action shots. Moving on to post-war, scenes from some of Gross’s first films provide a primer on beginning animation: with matches, newspaper, and wood puppets. All of these visual elements combine to keep the film moving and the viewer engaged.

Background music by Guy Gross, the son of Yoram, is an added plus. The sound quality is professional. Much of the film is in Polish, with English subtitles, as Gross is being interviewed or speaking to people in Poland. This adds much to the authenticity of the film and the feeling of being there with him in a foreign country.

As Gross relates his childhood experiences – his narrow escapes, how he had to hide, the loss of family members, the unspeakable cruelties of war – his spirit shines through. He is revisiting for himself, but also to share with his grandchildren. How he took these life experiences and used them in the Blinky series is fascinating. It is telling that he and his wife, who had settled in Israel after the war, decided to leave in the mid-1960s when conflicts broke out so that their two-year-old son would not have to experience war.

The moving story, the family involvement, the personal development of an artist: all come together in this film. Even if American audiences are not familiar with Blinky or Yoram Gross, this film is an opportunity to meet them and to marvel at the triumph of art and family over war. An excellent choice for a public library DVD collection, Blinky & Me would also be an effective learning experience for high school or college students studying the Holocaust or art, especially animation.