Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, the Academy Award-winning documentary by Mark Jonathan Harris, was selected for addition to the Library of Congress‘ National Film Registry for 2014.
Created in 1988, the registry works to ensure the survival of films with considerable import to American history. It is a living treasury of cinematic art to be preserved for posterity. Given the broad criteria for admittance, the films chosen are highly disparate, from 12 Angry Men to The Empire Strikes Back.
In the past 27 years, only 650 titles have been added, from Casablanca, one of the first inductees in 1989, to now.
Harris, who has taught filmmaking at the USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1983, highlighted the significance of the recognition, explaining, “The Academy Awards, as everyone knows, are a snapshot of one year. This film’s selection by the National Film Registry means that the movie has had a long life and will continue to going forward.”
The film’s backstory: In 1938, amid the unrest and initial stirrings of World War II, the United Kingdom launched a remarkable rescue effort known as the Kindertransport, in which more than 10,000 Jewish children were relocated to Great Britain from Nazi-occupied Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. The children, whose ages ranged from infancy to 17, traveled alone by train to British foster homes and hostels, leaving behind the only home they knew for a strange and uncertain future.
Remarkable stories of loss, struggle and survival — recounted by the actual kind (children), rescuers and parents who lived through it — are the subjects of Harris’ film.
What sets this film apart from the multitude of Holocaust documentaries, according to Harris, holder of the Mona and Bernard Kantor Endowed Chair in Production, is the focus.
“Most of them ask the question, ‘How the hell could this happen?’ We wondered, ‘How do the people who lived through this survive?’ ”
Other films chosen for permanent preservation in the National Film Registry for 2014 include the Coen Brothers cult comedy The Big Lebowski, John Hughes’ Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and the family film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.