Aida’s Secrets, A film by Alon Schwarz and Shaul Schwarz, opens in Toronto January 12

Courtesy of Music Box Films

Blue Ice Docs presents

Aida’s Secrets
A Film By Alon Schwarz and Shaul Schwarz

An intriguing, surprise-filled doc untangles how a Jewish family mysteriously scattered post-War

Opens in Toronto
January 12
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema

“one family’s silences and lies unravel before our eyes in the gripping, intimate Aida’s Secrets.”
– LA Times.

Izak grew up in Israel, raised by a loving foster family. His biological mother Aida, who lived in Quebec, sought him out when he was 11 and visited him often over the years, never fully disclosing the details of their shared past.

Shepsel – Shep – was raised in Winnipeg by a cold and distant father named Geshel and his wife. In his teens, Shep was told his “mother” was a step-mother.

About 10,000 kms apart all their lives, Izak and Shep lived 65 years not knowing they were brothers from the same secret-keeping mother.

Aida’s Secrets is the story about how they found each other, how they connected with the still-enigmatic nursing-home bound birth-mother they shared – and how sleuthing uncovered yet another long-lost sibling from the rubble of events related to the Holocaust.

It is also a remarkable detective story by filmmaker Alon Schwarz, spurred on by the guilt he’d felt knowing facts about his uncle Isak’s past that he’d once promised to keep from the man himself. In its unfolding, we’re told a story about the Jewish survivors of the War, who were held for a time after the Allied victory in a Displaced Persons camp at Bergen-Belsen. Well cared-for, young, socially-minded, and thrilled with the joy of being alive, they were the beginning of a revitalized Jewish community.

And in this cauldron of post-War possibilities, romances and birthrights became complicated. Kickstarted by a MyHeritage search and deepened by ingeniously obtained archival photos, Aida’s Secrets is a tale of Aida, her husband Geshel, and Zippy, and Margaret, and a mystery man seen looking patriarchal in a photo of Aida and her baby sons.

For Izak and Shep, it’s a life-consuming mystery, and the discovery of Aida’s third son (whom she will not acknowledge) is a shadow that hangs over the joy of their discovery of each other. The award-winning movie touches on themes that affected every society after the scorched-earth barbarism of WWII.

“I held the secret of my uncle Izak for 40 years,” says Schwarz, who’d been angrily warned as a child to keep quiet. After Izak found clues out about Shepshel on his own, the filmmaker confessed what he knew to his uncle, who was furious. Shwarz admits guilt motivated him to undertake the challenge of decoding his uncle’s life.

“I was living in archives,” he says. “Looking at graves in Australia and Argentina, looking all over the world. Refugees that were last documented in a camp in Germany could be very hard to track. When we got Izak and Shepsel together, we began to have a film on our hands. I didn’t even know what a Displaced Person’s camp was, but it was a place where people lived for three to five years after the war, an explosion of life. And they had a lot of sex. From 6,000 survivors, 1,300 babies were born.”

The film coalesced around the photos, and a wealth of camp-life footage taken by Allied forces. Often, the photos and footage turned out to be of the same event.

“As a filmmaker, it was like winning the lottery,” Schwarz says. “It was a very exciting story to tell.”

Founded in 2014 in partnership between Robin Smith, president of KinoSmith, and Blue Ice Group co-owners, Steven Silver and Neil Tabatznik, Blue Ice Docs uses the expertise and skills of both organizations to acquire, fund and develop a wide variety of non-fiction projects from around the world. Upcoming releases include, SPETTACOLO, MOUNTAIN, THE WORKERS CUP, MUHI: GENERALLY TEMPORARY, MODIFIED, and DRIES.