Magnus Gertten has managed to make a film full of warmth and human presence, even a beautiful film, if one may say so, given the subject matter.

Robert Dahlström, Ystads Allehanda

Harbour of Hope

Director’s motivation

Harbour of Hope is the film my father Gustaf always wanted me to do. He was 15 years old as he stood on the quays of the Malmö harbour watching the ships coming in with concentration camp survivors. It was a life changing experience for him, as for many other citizens of Malmö.

”You have to make a film about this”, he has pleaded with me since I became a full time documentary filmmaker some ten years ago. I tried to reject the project for many years, as I was reluctant to have a go at yet another ’Holocaust film’, obviously a complex challenge connected with endless responsibilities for any director.

Second thoughts came to me when we found archive footage from April 1945 in the SVT vaults. First hand a news journal reporting on the Red Cross action, called Vittnesbördet (filmed during the spring of 1945), but also two rolls with outtakes from the shootings, together forming around 40 minutes of unique footage of excellent quality.

Still I was reluctant. I wasn’t sure if I could create enough cinematic magic from this material and the news story. ”We have to be able to identify some of the survivors in this 65 year old film”, I told my father. As he is an amateur historical researcher he met the challenge and started to dig into the archives from 1945.

After some extensive research during several months he was able to identify the little girl Irene, who’s very present on several of the shots. This was of course a magic moment and a definite turning point, especially as we soon found out that she was still alive living in South Africa.

It was really a dream for a filmmaker to find such a big story having taken place in ones own backyard. This is world history, in the way the Swedes and the Malmö citizens met it.

Harbour of Hope is in a way a historical documentary, but my ambition was to work with the more personal, character driven style that I usually do. It’s a subject full of intense feelings. Of sorrow, anger, dreams, hope and love. I wanted the film to embrace and display all these emotions, but also to contain – now and then – some smiles.

There were many challenges in making Harbour of Hope. One was the extensive research needed to identify people on the film rolls, digging through archives for documents, further footage and still photos. That took a lot of time and energy. And the big challenge was of course to make all these life stories connect and make sense in the main plot about how people’s lives were changed forever by World War II.

It was obviously very important to find a new angle in my story about the survivors from concentration camps, which I think we managed to create. It took four years to finish the film and it’s important to mention that making a film like this definitely is a teamwork. To mention one person in the team: the editor Jesper Osmund has been a major contributor when it comes to the storytelling. Without him this film would not have been possible.

Very best wishes
Magnus Gertten
Director of Harbour of Hope