My family was one of only twelve Jewish families to survive the Nazi occupation of Prague during the Second World War.
Red Trees is a film that I am directing that tells the story of how they survived and eventually journeyed to Brazil. It is retold through the memories of my father, who was a child at the time, and shot by Oscar nominated César Charlone.
In 2015, war, violence and persecution has left one in every 122 humans on the planet a refugee, internally displaced or seeking asylum.
Seventy years after the end of the Second World War, the news is still flooded with stories of how our governments continue to turn their backs of the plight of families.
Red Trees is a glimpse into the fear and hope that refugees experience, serving as an important insight into the very human stories behind the statistics.
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War is hell, and in the centre of this hell are people, forced to uproot and flee. Red Trees is a 25 minute documentary about one family's journey through war into a new beginning, based on the memories of my father, Alfred.
In the film, my father recounts the exceptional circumstances in which he was able to survive in Czechoslovakia and on to Brazil, in a journey fuelled by the scientific grandeur of his father. He was a master chemist who co-created the formula for citric acid––a recipe which he hid from the Gestapo in his wife’s recipe book. His scientific achievements afforded my family the ability to survive the war and the opportunity to go to Brazil under the guise of a research project into the use of soya in food production.
I wanted to bring my family's story to life, and to do so I am working with the brilliant cinematographer César Charlone, who was behind City of God and The Constant Gardener.
Together we are retracing my father’s journey from Prague to Rio, travelling from war-torn Eastern Europe to the colour and light of South America.
It has been an incredible experience and I am privileged to have been able to do it with my father, who has been with us every step of the way.
“It has been a very special personal process of reconnection to follow my daughter make this film. It’s like going back to the journey of my family from the war years to the life we were so lucky to rebuild in Brazil.”
Why now, why Kickstarter
We felt that Red Trees belonged on a crowdfunding platform. Although its details are deeply personal, it addresses the universal problem of displacement, which has taken on a new relevance with the refugee crisis in Europe. It celebrates the richness of diversity, the beauty of colour and the hope that multiculturalism creates.
We wanted to fundraise on Kickstarter specifically because of their brilliant work with the UN Refugee Agency. In October 2015, Kickstarter launched the Help Refugee fund, which was able to raise over $1,000,000 for Syrian refugees in just 24 hours, an incredible achievement.
We wanted to open the doors to everyone to be a part of the film and its journey, no matter how much or how little they could give.
Look and feel
Red Trees is an audiovisual essay, giving a first-hand account of the refugee experience and outlining the importance of tolerance and opportunity in all our lives, both personally and collectively. Its title references my father’s colour blindness, a condition that became apparent when he drew trees covered in red leaves as a child.
I've always seen the world in a lot of colour. This is something that has always come through in my work as a designer and a filmmaker. In Red Trees, colour is used as a metaphor to show the importance of accepting other people and their cultures.
The film retells my father's memories and is beautifully voiced by the actor Tim Pigott-Smith. We explore each part of my father's journey, from the hard years in war-torn Czechoslovakia, through to his journey to Brazil and his realisations once there.
My father is an architect, best-known for his work in the Brazilian city of Curitiba. He first discovered his love of architecture in Prague before qualifying in Brazil. To reflect this, the film uses the built environment to create pathos, awe and hope. We tell the story through architecture, as if we are looking through his eyes.
Where we are
In September, César and I travelled to Prague to shoot on location. We spent a week filming 20 hours of footage in three factories on the outskirts of Prague and within Prague itself. One of the most challenging shoots for me was in the Old New Synagogue, where the names of all the Jewish people who died in concentration camps are written. Seeing my great-great grandmother's name there was heart-breaking. We also filmed in the Terezín Concentration camp where more than 150,000 people were held during the Nazi occupation.
We've also completed a day of filming in London at 2 Willow Road, a National Trust property designed by Ernő Goldfinger. We chose this location because of its similarity to Alfred's home in Prague, and this footage is being used for all the interior shots in the film.
In October, we recorded my father and actor Tim Piggot Smith's voiceovers.
If we are funded, we will travel to Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in December to film for three days.
After we complete filming, we will edit our footage into a 25 minute film and work with a musician who specialises in soundtracks to create a bespoke score to accompany my father's story.
We've set the deadline of Spring 2016 to complete Red Trees. We want to release the film as soon as we possibly can, and we think that Spring is a realistic target, taking into account editing, grading and soundtrack creation. It is important to me to release the film before the UNHCR's World Refugee day in June, as I feel it is a timely reminder of the fear and hope that refugees experience.
For £20 you will receive an A2 poster, designed by Marina Willer and printed by Gavin Martin Colournet.
Size 420mm x 594 mm
Printed on a premium quality uncoated paper
For £40 you will receive tickets to the film's launch, which will be held at the ICA cinema in Spring 2016. The event will include a drinks reception, live Q&A with the film's director Marina Willer and a live performance by jazz singer Monica Vasconcelos.
#5 & #7
A limited edition signed photograph by César Charlone
Three limited edition signed photographs by César Charlone
For £5,000 Marina Willer and her team at Pentagram will design your company a logo.
Red Trees is a film about acceptance and tolerance. Because of this, any pledgers to the £5000 reward of designing a logo, must share these values. It is an independent production and we would strongly prefer if this reward was claimed by a small company of less than 50 people, or an NGO.
Please note, this reward is only for a logo and will not include a full identity system.
How we will use your donation
Who we are
I’m a graphic designer, based in London and originally from Brazil. I make short films both for myself and for clients like MTV and Richard Rogers, who I’ve worked with for the past 10 years. My films have been shown at the RA, the Pompidou and Design Museum and selected for film festivals around the world including: Rotterdam Film Festival, Clermont Ferrand, Aspen and São Paulo.
I’m also a Partner at the world’s most awarded design company - Pentagram. In my work as a graphic designer I have led the creation of the identities for the Tate Gallery, Serpentine Galleries, the Southbank Centre, Oxfam, Amnesty International, Oi and Second Home amongst others.
The film’s cinematographer is César Charlone, who is best known for his work on City of God and The Constant Gardener. In 2003, César was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematographer for City of God. His skills also include direction and in 2007, his film The Pope’s Toilet was Uruguay’s official submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
Based on the memories of Alfred Willer.
Director: Marina Willer
Director of photography: César Charlone
Script: Brian Eley, Leena Telén and Marina Willer
Narrators: Tim Pigott-Smith and Alfred Willer
Production Supervisor: Katya Krausova
Sound Designer: Iain Grant
Producer: Lucie Garnier
Graphic Design: Marina Willer and Clare Newsam
Art Direction: Marina Willer, Ian Osborne, Clare Newsam
and Ana Rachel Estrougo
Web Design: Hamlet Auyeung, Clare Newsam
Campaign Writer and Coordinator: Zuleika Sedgley
Campaign Producer: Jessica Samuel
Campaign Advisor: Alex Daly and Vann Alexandra
Prague Film Production: Nelly Daniela Jenčíková, Vivian Al-Samarrai
and everyone at Miracle Film
Executive Producer: Marcelo Willer
Distribution Consultant: Henrietta Norton
Concept by Naresh Ramchandani
Edited by Lizzie Reid
Music by Max Richter
With special thanks to
Gary Bird and Gavin Martin Colournet for their generosity in sponsoring all of our printing gavinmartincolournet.co.uk
Marcelo Gomes for letting us use his photograph in the promotions for the film marcelogom.es
Risks and challenges
Having created multiple short films before, I am confident that we can deliver a great film in a timely fashion.
However, as with any film that takes place in multiple locations around the world, we are at risk of filming being pushed back or dates being moved around due to unforeseen reasons.
I am extremely grateful that César has offered to lend his expert eye to the film, travelling with me to each location and providing limited edition prints to our backers. I’m sure that César's talent will help us to create a visually captivating film that will be able to do my father’s story justice.
Pentagram is also a great support, who have kindly lent their knowledge, kindness and occasionally resources, to our project.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)