A Jewish American woman and an Ethiopian refugee reconcile Austria’s past with its present.
Rachel, a Jewish-American woman, moves to Vienna, Austria to begin a new job at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s headquarters. While in Austria, she hopes to rediscover her family’s past and further pursue her dreams of travel. During this time of exploration, she comes to realize that the memories and recent history of the Holocaust are not easy issues for Austrians to acknowledge, especially when the infamous WWII Flak Towers ominously loom over the city. The Austrian insistence to keep these World War II remnants intact belies a deeper national emotion.
With Vienna’s omnipotent flak towers observing Rachel’s every move, cultural memories overtake her senses. She hears the crunch of Gestapo boots running on the hardwood steps and across the floor of her pre-war building, she sees a vestige of her great-grandmother, killed in a concentration camp, walking in a crowd, she imagines the sounds and sees the people of a bygone era.
As refugees from war-torn Syria descend upon the central European republic, the rise of the far-right political party, the FPÖ, inheritor of Hitler’s xenophobic rhetoric, grows through the country.
Images of pre WWII Vienna parallel current situations within the country as groups of young gangs spray paint anti-refugee slogans across buildings and walls. Rachel observes the worrying signs of “Ausländer raus,” and recognizes they are no different than the Nazi-era chant of “Juden raus.”
Rachel is forced to face her fears and those of the country in which she now lives.
EUROPACIFIC FILMS, LLC presents REFUGE
produced by MARIAN GREEN MICHAEL HOFSTEIN CLEMENS DANZER SARA LOGAN HOFSTEIN
Music by DAVID WILDE • Sound Design by TREVOR JOLLY • Edited by GABRIEL KAUNITZ
Production Designer MARIA PROCK • Director of Photography MICHAEL HOFSTEIN
Written by MICHAEL HOFSTEIN & SARA LOGAN HOFSTEIN • Directed by SARA LOGAN HOFSTEIN
Rachel, portrayed by Katharina Sporrer, a Jewish-American woman who works for the IAEA in Vienna, Austria, is saddened to be away from her family, yet excited to be living in a new country. She works hard and struggles to make this new location her home. Surrounded by the daily reminders of Austria’s past Holocaust involvement, she delves into her family’s roots and discovers her family’s history intertwined with the Holocaust. Rachel’s life, enmeshed with echoes of the past, is soon overtaken by the present as the Arab refugee crisis grows. With the Austrian far-right political movement gaining power, Rachel’s inner fears are born out as anti refugee statements begin to circulate.
Yitzhak, portrayed by David Wurawa, an Ethiopian refugee and now a professor at the University of Vienna, emigrated to Austria in the early 1990’s to escape the rise of religious persecution. More than 25 years later, he has developed a deep love for his adopted Austria yet, as an African, he often experiences racism. He innately understands Rachel’s fears yet with his unique outlook as a former refugee, he maintains a positive attitude, believing that Austrians are a righteous people who, with guidance, will not repeat their past mistakes.
Phillipa, portrayed by Susanne Gschwendtner, a British physicist, working as a research executive for the IAEA in Vienna, she understands the necessity for diplomacy and keeping her staff involved. Both a scientist and a business executive, she works hard and expects those around her to do the same, although she shows her humanity at unexpected moments.