The subject of the film, Esther Wise, who is now 98 years old, attended the premiere and made a passionate speech about the film and subject matter.
The film was funded by the Association of French Teachers of Victoria (AFTV) and will be a resource to teach French to secondary school students, while ensuring students do not forget the past.
The AFTV Vice-President Lucie Dickens, who led the project, spoke on the importance of the film and its impact.
“As educators, we know the impact a personal story can have on students.
“Through the authentic connection students can make with someone relating to a personal event, the outcome can be quite impactful, and the learning experience becomes more meaningful,” she said.
The AFTV is currently designing a series of activities based on the film to be included in an educational kit that will be available to teachers by the end of the year.
Producing the film
Antoine was approached by the AFTV to make the film after the French consulate talked to the French ambassador during last year’s WWII memorial event about Esther’s story.
Antoine then brought on Guy and Ben to help shoot the film.
Guy Brooks (left), Antoine Hobbs (middle) and Ben Burr (right) at the film’s premiere
In December 2022, they met Esther for the first time and began filming a month later.
During the filming process, Antoine was in France and captured B-roll of WWII and Holocaust memorials. They also used archival footage throughout the film, which was mostly sourced from the American Holocaust Museum.
The film premiere was at Esther’s residency, the Emmy Monash. With over sixty people attending, Antoine, Ben and Guy were overwhelmed with the reception and praise people gave them.
“We were worried about whether we had made the subtitles big enough, when Esther’s son-in-law came up and thanked us for making the film and said she told parts of her story he didn’t know about,” said Ben.
“It was an indescribable feeling.”
In the film, Esther reflects on the time when the war began, and how it impacted not only herself but everyone around her.
When Hitler declared war in Poland, and the French responded, people weren’t sure what to do. There was a lot of doubt that the Germans would win, as well as make a move to France.
Esther and her family decided to stay in Paris for a few more months, seeing people from the North of France and Belgium heading south.
With tensions increasing, her parents decided to rent a taxi to travel to the South of France. Eventually, the car ran out of fuel, and they were forced to walk. From Guret, they boarded a slow-moving train to Limoges.
Millions of Parisians fled the French capital in June 1940. Image: LAPI/Roger Viollet
Staying in Limoges for a few weeks, they eventually returned home to Paris and lived there until 1942. Her father, an owner of a small factory making raincoats, was already in hiding and her mother tried to maintain their usual routine to not raise suspicion.
A friend with connections to the local police sent a warning out, that authorities were coming to take anyone away that might be able to work.
Being sixteen at the time, Esther was of working age and her parents became worried she would be taken away. Esther went to stay at a friend’s house for the night; to them it was a party, as her mother never allowed her to go to a sleepover.
The next morning, she woke up to chaos on the streets, and a neighbour came to tell Esther that her mother and baby brother had been taken away. She never saw her father, mother, or brother again.
Esther found her stepsister Yvette who was married and pregnant with her second child. They planned to flee into a safe zone. Unfortunately, once they reached safety, Esther couldn’t stay with her stepsister and travelled further south to Limoges.
With compassion and understanding, the local priest found a place for Esther to hide, with the sisters in Ussel.
Esther looked after the children, worked in the kitchen and laundry. To blend in with the others, she attended daily church services and learnt to follow the prayers of everyone else.
She had to move once more, travelling to Saint-Genis-la-Vale in the French countryside, where she remained until the end of the war.
After the war, Esther had a new beginning, arriving in Australia by ship in May 1949.
Films like N’Ouiblez Jamais teach people about the past to ensure past mistakes are not repeated. It highlights that tolerance, empathy and intercultural understanding are values and skills which must be taught and learned.