Pentagram partner Marina Willer has revealed her first feature-length film, which is dedicated to the history of her Jewish family, will be shown at Cannes Film Festival 2017.
Red Trees tells the story of Willer’s father Alfred and his father, who fled Nazi rule in Prague, Czech Republic during World War Two, and travelled to Brazil. They were one of 12 Jewish, Czech families to survive the Holocaust.
The film project was initially launched as a 25-minute documentary on Kickstarter in 2015, but since then Willer has developed it into a feature-length as she felt it was “urgent to tell her father’s story”.
The designer has worked with cinematographer César Charlone on the film, who produced City of God and The Constant Gardener.
Grandfather was chemist who created citric acid
Filming involved travelling back to Prague with her father, and filming inside her grandfather’s abandoned factory.
Willer’s grandfather was a chemist and one of the co-creators of citric acid, a recipe he hid from the Gestapo in his wife’s cookery book, Willer says. His family survived the war and escaped being sent to concentration camps, under the pretence that he was conducting a research project into the use of soya in food production, so were sent to Brazil instead.
The film is a personal project for Willer, which aims to not only provide insight into her family’s life, but also tell “the story of many families”.
The release date of the film was revealed by Willer at D&AD Festival, which is currently taking place at the Old Truman Brewery in east London.
“The ‘genius designer’ is no longer relevant”
In her talk, Willer spoke about the need for designers to instigate change and play a role in wider political and social debates, adding that they need to work with non-design communities to do so.
“The idea of the ‘genius designer’ is not relevant anymore,” she said. “There is no person in isolation with great ideas. We co-create and collaborate to make sense of the world.
“Designers need to know how to incorporate the ideas of other people – whether they’re children, philosophers or people on the street – to make things beautiful,” she added.
Move away from smartphones
Willer also spoke of why it was essential for designers to work with “analogue” methods, as “this generation is lost to their smart phones”.
“While everyone was busy on their phones, Trump got elected and Brexit happened,” she said. “I believe the next generation will rebel. As designers – people who work with communication – we can do things to change that.”
Red Trees will premiere at Cannes Film Festival, which takes place 17-28 May 2017 in Cannes, France.