BEN ALI LIBI, MAGICIAN
Ben Ali Libi, Magician is a documentary in co-production with Zeppers Film, Amsterdam and Dutch public broadcaster NTR.
Air date May 4th, 2015 21.00, Ned 2.
Dirk Jan Roeleven
BEN ALI LIBI, MAGICIAN
A heartfelt search for Ben Ali Libi, the main character in an iconic poem
of the late Dutch poet Willem Wilmink.
In 2003, I made the documentary Poet of the Javastraat, about the late Dutch poet/lyricist Willem Wilmink for the TV documentary series Het Uur van de Wolf (NPS). In the film, the Dutch actor Joost Prinsen recites Wilminks poem about the possibly in Sobibor murdered magician Ben Ali Libi. Halfway during the recital Joost breaks down, but finishes the poem in a broken voice. The poem of Willem Wilmink is the unequivocal inspiration of this film, because this poem gives a face to the individual ordeals of the Jews who were deported from the Netherlands during WWII.
This documentary chronicles the larger story of the Holocaust by means of the gripping fate of the renowned magician Prof. Ben Ali Libi. On June 20, 1943, during a raid of the Germans in the south of Amsterdam, Ben Ali Libi is arrested with his family. After that, the family is sent to transit camp Westerbork and from there to Sobibor. There, Ben Ali Libi is being separated from his wife and handicapped daughter Aaltje. His son Jack escapes the fate of the family by mere luck.
Was Ben Ali Libi one of the 34,000 Dutch Jews who died in Sobibor? We use a search to reconstruct his life, his successful career, and the first years of WWII – when he performed for Jewish forced laborers in Dutch labor camps – through archival footage (including unique footage of the magician performing in 1937) and captivating testimonies (including Jules Schelvis, Mieke Bloemendal and the subtenant of the magicians family). The search for Ben Ali Libi brings us to Westerbork and from there we follow the road to Sobibor, where we search for speaking and silent witnesses of what took place there. We end our search in the Polish village of Czestochowa where Ben Ali Libi would have been seen after the liberation. Was he able to escape the gas chambers by the ultimate magic trick?
By searching for the events happening to Ben Ali Libi, his wife and daughter, we get an emotional story about the life of the Jewish working class in the first half of the 20th century, the increasing predicaments and the fear during WWII and the Holocaust.
Dirk Jan Roeleven
The director of the 2014 documentary ‘The Clean Spirit’: A unique and compelling inside story of cycling team, Argos-Shimano, keen on showing that winning is possible without any use of doping. DirkJan was nominated for the Gouden Beeld No Still Life about Anton Corbijn (Uur van de Wolf, 2000), nominated for Pop Media Prijs for video clips with Rob Hodselmans for Top 2000 a GoGo (NTR). Documentary filmmaker Andere Tijden Sport (VPRO/NOS), including the documentary about the Elfstedentocht 1963. Dirk Jan Roeleven also directed the Uur van de Wolf documentary about quizmaster Willem Ruis (2003), the film 'Willem Wilmink - Dichter in de Javastraat' (2004) and 'De weduwen Sonneveld'(2006).
Frank van den Engel
In 1997 he started an independent documentary production company Zeppers Film & TV as executive producer. He produced over 75 films, for theatre and television. Some of these have been awarded at prestigious festivals around the world: Andre Hazes - she believes in me, Dans, Grozny Dans, Voices of Bam. Nowadays he combines production work with the development and realization of his own film projects, and with the coaching of first time directors. His debut Normaal - I always come back (82 mins) was theatrically released in 2002. Between Heaven and Earth (70 mins) was released in the cinema in 2007. His 2009 documentary about Dutch photographer Gerard Fieret:Photo & Copyright by G.P. Fieret was nominated for Best Dutch Documentary at the Netherlands Film Festival. His most recent work is The Next Big Thing (2014), about Art Collectors, was broadcast by NTR.