By Robert Abele
5:37 PM EDT, July 17, 2013
There's a great story at the heart of Matej Minac's documentary "Nicky's Family," if only it were allowed to be told unvarnished. In the 1930s, Englishman Nicholas Winton took it upon himself to rescue more than 650 Czech and Slovak children from the encroaching horrors of Nazism, a herculean feat of willful humanitarianism that stemmed from just one man's triggered conscience.
Minac's film about this undertaking (called the Czech Kindertransport) and its ripple effect in generations of charity-minded descendants is narrated by one of the rescued, Canadian broadcaster Joe Schlesinger, and features interviews with countless others, not to mention Winton himself. ("Britain's Schindler" is still alive, at 104.) But as amazing as this piece of World War II history is, its nuances are rarely allowed to breathe, what with sound effects slathered on top of archival footage, aggressively schmaltzy/ominous music drowning out interviews, and the unfortunate directorial choice of squeezing in filmed reenactments that play like something you'd see in a basic cable crime show or an educational short.
It's a bewildering lack of faith in the emotional pull of the survivors' own storytelling capabilities, their voices easily and vividly recalling a time of fear, wonderment, separation, outsiderdom and, eventually, life-affirming gratitude.
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 41 minutes.
Playing: At Laemmle Royal, Los Angeles; Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino; and Playhouse 7, Pasadena.
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