poster author: Hélder Costa
Color – Year: 2013 – Runtime: 24:32
I AM ALIVE thanks to Aristides de Sousa Mendes is a short documentary film directed by Priscilla Fontoura that tells the story of one of the greatest forgotten heroes of the twentieth century. As the Portuguese Consul-General in Bordeaux, France, during World War II, Sousa Mendes was responsible for saving the lives of thousands of people from the Holocaust. He did this by issuing visas to Portugal, against the direct orders of the Portuguese dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar. Among the visa recipients was Salvador Dali, whose post-war paintings exist thanks to Aristides de Sousa Mendes.
The film establishes a parallel between the Sousa Mendes home in the Portuguese countryside – an edifice that today stands in ruins – and the forced oblivion of his legacy. Punished by the Portuguese government, he never received the recognition he deserved. The starting point of the documentary is a visit to the house, called Casa do Passal, where the Consul was born. There we meet Sousa Mendes visa recipients and their descendants who have come to render homage. The occasion is the opening of an installation, “Work Towards Fairness,” created by Eric Moed, a New York architect whose grandfather received a visa from Aristides. Moed’s installation includes photographs of the visa recipients and is meant as a plea for the house to be rebuilt.
With their testimonials and family stories, the visa recipient family members help to rebuild the memory of Aristides de Sousa Mendes and restore his good name. This film underlines the necessity of rebuilding the only physical structure in Portugal associated with Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Casa do Passal, so that the name of one of the greatest heroes in the Western World might be restored to its rightful place in history.
Executive producer VIBIS
Associate producers BRITT MICHAELIAN, ELIZABETH BROWN, HARRY OESTERREICHER, ISABEL CANHOLA, MARK ROBERT, YAKOV DAMKANI AND ELISHEVA DAMKANI
A documentary financed by crowdfunding I AM ALIVE THANKS TO ARISTIDES DE SOUSA MENDES with ANTÓNIO DE MONCADA DE SOUSA MENDES, ERIC MOED, HARRY OESTERREICHER and YARA NAGEL video editing PRISCILLA FONTOURA executive producer VIBIS associate producers BRITT MICHAELIAN, ELIZABETH BROWN, HARRY OESTERREICHER, ISABEL CANHOLA, MARK ROBERT, YAKOV DAMKANI AND ELISHEVA DAMKANI, directed by PRISCILLA FONTOURA
Documentary is part of the collection:
– Yad Vashem’s Visual Center; Jerusalem, Israel
– Holocaust Museum of Porto; Portugal
– National Museum of Resistance and Freedom, Peniche Fortress, Portugal