Review: Nicky’s Family


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically.

Specifically to this post, upon hearing of Sir Nicholas Winton’s death today at the age of 106 I confirmed that I had not given this film its own post yet. May he rest in peace. 

Nicky’s Family (2011)

In this documentary, which also includes dramatizations that are thankfully usually silent, the tale of a British businessman, Sir Nicholas Winton, who took it upon himself to organize the Kindertransport program, which evacuated hundreds of children out of Czechoslovakia prior to World War II and the transport of Czechoslovakian Jews, Slavs and Gypsies to concentration camps, is told. However, as the title suggests how Winton came to be inspired to do so, what he had to do and how is only a part of the tale. The film also tells of how the story became more widely known and some of what the survivors went through both as Nazi Germany annexed the Sudetenland, what occurred during and after their relocation and lastly how the legacy of Nicholas’ actions are still felt to this day both with survivors and those inspired by his tale.

Within a seemingly simple story at the outset this is a hefty and ambitious task when all the component parts are taken into account. Having said that it does so quite well. Though I occasionally wondered about, or lost track of a thread, there is a narrative language established wherein transitions between hosted intros, stills, interview pieces, stock footage, re-enactments and b-roll occurs. It’s only a minor pacing hiccup in the end.

Much of the footage implemented, along with the personal accounts as well as some unique and well-placed scoring and original music really elevate this film.

In a great piece by Christopher Campbell from last year he discussed the importance of judging the film in question when dealing with a documentary and as a sidebar you can talk about the topic as he discusses in issue films, which this is. So here’s my sidebar: while there are myriad stories of heroics that occurred during the holocaust that saved further lives from being lost what separates this one is what a small, almost individual effort it was, how unassuming the hero is and how he’s inspired others to take action to this very day in almost a real-life Pay It Forward manner.

Nicky’s Family is a fairly good documentary that should find a wider audience both for the cinematic qualities it possesses and the tale it tells, one that may not be so widely known. For more information on the film you can visit Menemsha’s site or go here to request a screening near you.