Destination Unknown 2017 (Pontio)

On 21st June 2017, Pontio hosted a Q&A with Welsh producer Llion Roberts on his new critically acclaimed feature documentary Destination Unknown, a collection of powerful interviews with the last Holocaust survivors. This is the first in a season of season of Welsh films this year at Pontio, supported by our Made in Wales strategy. Here, Pontio’s Cinema Co-ordinator Emyr Glyn Williams talks about the screening:

“As a programmer, it is always exciting to hear about Welsh filmmakers with a film ready for screening. Initially this was the reason to investigate Destination Unknown as the film’s producer and main creative force, Llion Roberts, is based locally. 

Pretty soon it became clear that this was no ordinary film, and Llion was no ordinary film maker. You could say that Destination Unknown is a labour of love as Llion’s background is more rooted in satellite technology and equipment hire services than traditional film production. However, that would give you the wrong impression of what the finished film actually is. It took Llion 15 years to make this film and I have no hesitation in calling him a film artist on the strength of this production.

Another strong reason to screen the film was the unique ability cinema has in successfully transmitting certain stories and histories to the audience.  At times, this film is overwhelmingly harrowing and something that a normal television screening could never contain. Some human stories need to be communicated communally in a shared space; in a space of togetherness and stories from the Holocaust are such stories. In fact, I would actively encourage other cinemas in Wales to book this film for this precise reason – its natural home is in the cinema.”

“Having support from the Film Hub ensured that I could straight away define the terms of our booking to include two question and answer sessions (one in Welsh and one in English – with local film professors from the University). We could also design a bespoke flyer and poster, and pay for a Facebook advertising push.

We also made full use of an exclusive film trailer provided to us by Llion which included a message ‘in Welsh’ from one of the survivors, Ed Mosberg thanking people in Wales for coming to watch the film.”

“The Q&A screening was very successful. Over 150 tickets were sold and almost everybody stayed for the post-screening question and answer session.

In a way, the post-screening event was essential as the experience of watching and living through these harrowing tales of survival is tough, but having a privileged insight into the whole production from the point of view of the person most involved was humbling in the extreme.

There is something quite unique about hearing a film maker admit that making a film like this can take its toll on your health. Llion explained that dealing with the reality and historical truth in cinematic terms demands that a price is paid. It is no bad thing to be reminded what processes, sacrifices and dedication lie behind the production of any great and important film.”

“I take away from this screening the strengthened belief that watching films communally is essential. Sometimes our upcoming films will target specific sections of our community, and we can offer a space for this audience to feel comfortable and amongst likeminded friends. This is something I believe very strongly as the cinema belongs to all of us – sometime we can all be in there at the same time, but this is not always essential.

Also, I find that it is well worth taking time to get audience responses on the night as the reactions and comments are almost always surprising and useful.”

“Undoubtedly the film is a major work. The reviews the film is garnering in national newspapers attests to its power and relevance as it takes its place amongst other cinematic treatises on the Holocaust.

On a personal level, watching the film was traumatizing and very painful at times – clearly there is no other way of bearing witness to this history. My admiration for the form, control and content of Llion’s finished work is enormous.

His take is very humanistic, he lets all these people tell their stories in an avowedly non-political way. I don’t think we hear the words Hitler, Anti-Semitism or even Israel in the film (as far as I recall) – and the film is all the more powerful for concentrating solely on the individual experience. Because after all what else is there?”

Find out More

If you would like to programme Destination Unknown, find all the details in our Made in Wales catalogue.

If you are interested in screening Welsh films and would like to find out about support available, check out our Made in Wales guidelines.