Nicholas Winton: The Power Of Good Film Review

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Tue, 09/18/2001 - 01:55

Nicholas Winton is a kindly old English gentleman who likes nothing better than to potter around his garden. He is a very ordinary fellow and yet, it has only recently emerged, he was responsible for saving hundreds of children from Nazi death camps.

For half a century he didn't even tell his wife about his actions. "I didn't feel the need to," he says. His story went overlooked until, while cleaning the attic in 1998, she discovered an old scrap book with lists of names and photographs of the children that he had rescued from Hitler's Reich. The story become widely publicised when Winton was invited on to the television show That's Life for a surprise, emotional reunion with many of the rescued children.

Writer/director Matej Minac's documentary resonates with hope and light. Using interviews with the children now grown old and Winton himself, archival footage, photographs and sparing reconstructions, we learn how such a philanthropic act came about.

Winton was a successful 29-year-old stockbroker in London who "had an intuition" about the fate of the Jews when he visited Prague in 1939. He quietly but decisively got down to the business of saving lives. We learn how only two countries, Sweden and Britain, answered his call to harbour the young refugees; how documents had to be forged ("We didn't bring anybody in illegally, we just, er, speeded up the process a little") and how once foster parents signed for the children on delivery that was the last he saw of them. "You had to treat it like a business," says Winton.

Between March 13 and August 2 1939 Winton and his team managed to save 669 mainly Czech children. Their families now number 5000.

Journalist and presenter Joe Schlesinger, a rescued child himself, describes Winton as a man of "ordinary human decency". He has also become a national hero in Prague and in Britain and his good work ripples through the lives of many. Bring hankies.