The Anati Brothers
In 2013, three Italian Jewish brothers set off on a journey through Tuscany, in search of a cave where they hid as children to escape the Nazis. For the Anati brothers, Bubi, 77; Andrea, 85; and Emmanuel, 88 wanted to reconnect with their past.
The Anatis were raised in an upper-class family in Florence. In 1942, just before the deportations of Florentine Jews to Auschwitz began, the family managed to escape the city. They fled from village to village and eventually settled in a forest near Villa a Sesta, a town some 50 miles from Florence. Their father dug a cave with the help of others and the family lived underground for several months during the winter of 1944 until the end of the war. The family then moved to Israel, where the brothers have lived ever since.
“Shalom Italia,” is a documentary directed by Tamar Tal Anati (Bubi’s daughter-in-law) that follows the brothers’ return to Italy in an attempt to find the cave and seek some closure about those years. The brothers hike through the forest, meet with members of a family that helped them survive and eat Italian food as they look for the cave. Here we see that the brothers are true friends and still maintain good feelings about Italian culture. Bubi, worked at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science for years, is the guiding force behind the trip because locating the cave was something he had wanted to do for years. Andrea is an oceanic physics researcher and a jokester is seen whistling, humming and introducing himself to strangers is still in great physical shape. Emmanuel or “Meme” as his brothers call him is an internationally renowned archaeologist is the most serious of the three and has no desire to relive his Holocaust memories agreed to the trip to satisfy Bubi.
The brothers’ enjoy bickering with each other and it is endearing to see and hear. However, we never lose sight of the real purpose of the trip. The film’s lighthearted tone goes hand in hand with the brothers’ ghosts from the war. They share interesting thoughts about the nature of memory as they enjoy the food of the country. Andrea reminds his brothers of living in the woods, collecting mushrooms and playing Robin Hood games and having fun during the darkest period in world history. The boys were forced to grow up quickly. The film is a “testament to how memories are filtered through our attitudes and experiences, even the desires of those around us”.
Even though Tal had been married to Bubi’s son for years, she was not aware that her father-in-law and his brothers were Holocaust survivors. When Bubi told her about the planned trip to the Italian countryside and she learned of the cave and the reason for the journey, she felt that she had to film the adventure. What she found fascinating was that each brother had a completely different memory of the same event and she was curious to see how they would deal with the physical and mental challenge of such a journey as this. The brothers did not even think of themselves as true Holocaust survivors but since the filming of “Shalom Italia,” they have dealt with the memories of time. We need never to forget that who we are and how we see life are the result of our memories and if memories change, so do we.
The journey itself is fascinating and we also get glimpses of people who helped them survive.