Three Minutes – A Lengthening draws on 16mm color film shot in 1938 by David Kurtz before Nazis invaded Nasielsk’s Jewish community in Poland.
The short documentary (69 minutes) is based on Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film by Glenn Kurtz. Throw in the remastering and all the fun that comes along but the footage is truly impressive. We see it so many times throughout the film to where it’s ingrained in us by the end. But anyway, this footage is the only footage in existence of Nasielsk before World War II started in 1939. We all know the history and appropriately, they delay it for as long as possible. But for the briefest three minutes, we see a Jewish community happy about being on camera. If only they knew what would become of Poland and denying their history with the Holocaust! This is another story for another time but it’s important to know about the Polish revisionism to history.
Glenn Kurtz is the grandson of the man who originally shot the footage over 80 years ago. Even during the brief runtime, we get so much information about the town and its history. While David Kurtz may no longer be with us, Glenn Kurtz shares what he knows about the footage. For what it’s worth, David had already made his way to the US and then brought a camera with him on a trip to Europe before things in Poland got really bad. Many survivors are no longer with us and most in the film ended up murdered during the Shoah but Maurice Chandler appears in the film and offers his comments.
To Bianca Stigter’s credit, she slows down footage enough while letting us learn tidbits and such to where the film extends beyond an hour. For instance, they were once home to a button factory. Well, once the Nazis invaded, the factory became no more. But anyway, Stiger’s experimentation with extending the story is to the film’s benefit. I don’t think one can extend the film much longer. What we get does a solid job with telling us the history. This allows viewers to not only take in the film but learn along the way. In a world where people are comparing Covid to the Shoah, the education could not be more important.
This community had 3,000 residents in 1938. After the war, only 100 were still living. When Glenn Kurtz started working on his book about the film, he found out that seven survivors were still living. Among the survivors are the aforementioned Maurice Chandler, who made his way to the US.
Steve McQueen is one of the film’s co-producers. Three Minutes director Bianca Stigter was previously an associate producer for McQueen’s Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave and the extremely underrated Widows.
Three Minutes – A Lengthening offers an experimental time capsule of a community before antisemitism would destroy it.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Bianca Stigter
NARRATOR: Helena Bonham Carter