Andante Ma Non Troppo

(Move Forward but in a Slow Way)

Written & Directed Jimena C. Puente-Treviño; Sydney Jewish Museum, 12 December, 2012.

Reviewed : 12 December, 2012

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There are many stories of miraculous escapes from dangerous and oppressive conditions. All of them are daring, all are celebratory –  all remind us of the ruthless brutality of those who callously and relentlessly seek power over others. Telling and re-telling those stories  those stories commit them to history. They are lived experiences that record events that should never have occurred – and should never happen again.

How they are retold varies and that is important, because the more varied the methods, the wider their appeal. The way they are retold reaches out further than the immediate audience. Those that hear them pass them on. They trigger discussions and ideas – for interviews, documentaries, books, films, charities, organisations.

No stories have been so widely and sensitively told and recorded than those defiant, courageous people who escaped from the Nazi regime – and those few who survived the horror of the Nazi concentration camps. They have been recorded in interviews, memoirs, books and films. They are harrowing, their vividly detail recording small acts of courage, bravery and tenacity in the face of inhuman cruelty.

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The stories include small acts of audaciousness and defiance, often told with humour. One of these stories has been recorded in a short film by Sydney-based, Mexican-born Jimena Puente-Trevino. It tells the story of Jewish-German cellist, Felix Robert Mendelssohn who escaped across the border into Switzerland on a bicycle carrying his Stradivarius cell in a bag on his back.

Puente-Trevino researched the historical facts of the film with the aid of the Sydney Jewish Museum over ten years ago. It was produced in France with an international cast and crew in 2008 and has since won several international festival awards including the Best Screenplay award at the New York Short Film Festival.

Andante Ma Non Troppo saw its Australian premiere at the Sydney Jewish Museum last Sunday. Introduced by Puente-Trevino herself, the film was enthusiastically received. Filmed in black and white, it captures the time perfectly. Mendelssohn’s ingenuity and doggedness in the face of the ridicule of Nazi border guards is told with gentle humour and creative realism.

The ambitious filmmaker’s next project was shared with the audience via a script reading by four actors. It is based on the story of Michael Wionczeck, a Polish Jew forced underground in Nazi Germany. It records Wionczeck’s daring resistance plan to smuggle photographic evidence of the atrocities carried out at the Mauthausen concentration camp – and get them to the international press.

Titled “20.04.45”, Puente-Trevino’s script has already been shortlisted in three international script writing competitions. Last Sunday’s reading confirmed why. The writing is finely tuned, the story board tightly described, the characters clear, the tenacity of Wionczeck and his quest skilfully retold.

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The script has attracted the interest of many in the film industry and is being developed for production in association with UK producer Jo Austin at Candid Films in Sydney.

As is the case with so many creative ventures, funding is essential, and Puente-Trevino is reaching out across the industry for support – so her new script can record yet another story of brave determination and daring for a wider audience.