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Jewish Intergenerational Trauma Is On Full Display In This Important Documentary

Jewish Intergenerational Trauma Is On Full Display In This Important Documentary

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Interweaving super 8 family films, archival material, and experimental animation, a granddaughter takes a deep dive into the remarkable life of her indomitable grandmother — a writer, WWII refugee and Holocaust survivor. ANYUKA (Hungarian for mother) explores intergenerational trauma in ANYUKA, by Maya Erdelyi.

The Jewish diaspora, immigration, motherhood, and religious identity — to tell the story of a tragic and marvelous life across three continents. ANYUKA is the documentary directorial debut of award-winning artist and animator Maya Erdelyi. Her work has involved: experimental animation, collage, printmaking, installations, puppetry, stop-motion, curatorial projects, drawing clubs, and various collaborative projects involving visual music.

Maya is a Colombian/Hungarian first-generation American. Born and raised in New York City, she is currently based in Boston where she teaches animation at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University, and guest lectures at numerous Universities. Maya lives with her husband, also an animator and their daughter Paloma. Today – she shares her story with us;

In the late summer of 2014, I found myself sifting through boxes of old family super 8  films, archival photographs, hundreds of typewritten and handwritten letters, personal  documents, 7 hours of audio interviews, along with a 300-page unfinished memoir left  behind by my grandmother, Veronica Földes Frame. Earlier that summer my grandmother  passed away. We were very close. As a means of mourning I spent the rest of that summer —and months after—watching with fascination the hidden histories revealed in the 40-year  span of the super 8 films, reading the hundreds of type-written and hand-written letters  (the earliest from 1948), and pouring over the dozens of documents related to her struggle  to become an American citizen.  

Some background: Veronica was born Jewish, in Budapest, Hungary; she was raised with a  dual spirituality, and in her 20’s converted to Christianity, becoming a Methodist. Her  Christian faith, however, did not shield her from the brutalities of World War II. A survivor  of the Holocaust and Nazi atrocities, and later the ravages of Stalin, a widowed Veronica  escaped Hungary at age 29, with her 6 year old son Matthew. Miklos Erdelyi, her husband,  died in Auschwitz in 1944. It was an 8-year journey to American citizenship—from  Budapest to the countryside, smuggled over barbed-wire borders and carried through  minefields into Austria, and by ship to Venezuela. In 1958, the journey was complete, and  my grandmother and father became U.S. citizens, settling down in Forest Hills, Queens, in  New York City. 

It took more than 9 years for me to complete the film. As a first time documentary  filmmaker I was overwhelmed by the amount of material to work with and edit down. This  is also my most personal film to date. Many life events took place while I was working on  the film: I got married, had my first child, lived through the pandemic, etc. “Anyuka” is  definitely a labor of love. I’m thrilled to finally complete the film and share my  grandmother’s story with a larger audience.  

I believe her personal story also speaks to a larger one—Veronica’s story is a refugee story,  an ‘American Dream’ story, a story of survival and a story of one woman’s triumph over  tragedy. ANYUKA tells the other side of Holocaust stories, or what happens if you survive.  It is also the story of a matriarch—at one point, in her most desperate time, she was a  widow supporting 7 dependents. As a filmmaker and artist I decided to take all of this  material and create “ANYUKA”(translates to ‘Mother’ in Hungarian) an experimental  documentary that would utilize hand-drawn animation and stop-motion, interweaving the  super 8 footage, 7 hours of audio interviews, photographs, documents, letters and text  taken directly from her 300-page unfinished memoir. “ANYUKA” explores: inter generational trauma, the Jewish diaspora, American immigration, motherhood, and  religious identity—to tell the story of a tragic and marvelous life.

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To support Maya’s work, proceeds from the sale of her incredible artworks go towards the marketing and helping her get ANYUKA out into the world (it’s expensive for an indie filmmaker!).  Attend the Lincoln Center if you are in NYC, and follow Maya on instagram for more info: @mayaillusionerdelyi @anyukafilm. If you’re interested in hosting Maya, or screening this short in your neck of the woods – be in touch with her!

Photos of Maya Erdelyi and her Grandma Veronica Frame, courtesy of Maya Erdelyi

NEW DOCUMENTARY “ANYUKA” TO PREMIERE AT THE 2024 NEW YORK JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL, presented by the JEWISH MUSEUM and FILM AT LINCOLN CENTER After nine years in production, ANYUKA, a carefully hand-crafted animated documentary, directed by Maya Erdelyi, will have its World Premiere at the 2024 New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF). Now in its 33rd year, this prestigious international film festival is presented by The Jewish Museum and Film at Lincoln Center. Festival screenings take place at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center. The screening of ANYUKA is part of the Shorts Program taking place on January 23rd, 2024 at 8:30pm. More information and tickets are available here.

Cover image courtesy of Anyuka/ Maya Erdelyi