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Review: Back To Berlin – “Takes viewers on a roller coaster of emotion”

When you hear the words ‘Holocaust documentary,’ a motorbike road trip probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind, but that’s just the story you’ll get from Back to Berlin.

The unique film sees 11 bikers take to the road to retrace the route taken in the 1930s by the Maccabiah riders, a Jewish group travelling to Berlin for the 1936 Olympics where Jews were almost completely barred from competing as they faced persecution across Europe. In the film, riders set out from Israel, picking up the Maccabiah torch in Athens which they then transport with them as they travel through nine countries and cover 4,500km to get to Berlin.

Along the way the riders, all relatives of Holocaust victims, uncover stories of how their families either survived or perished during the war. Narrated by Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter films), the film takes viewers along on the emotional ride, which takes a particularly poignant detour from the original route into Poland to visit Auschwitz, one of the most enduring reminders of the Holocaust’s horror.

The entire film takes viewers on a roller coaster of emotion along with the riders as we hear heartbreaking stories followed by surprisingly hopeful ones and back again. Perhaps the most affecting moment comes as the crew pass through Romania and over the border there as local authorities are clashing with a group of incoming refugees from Syria. Seeing such violence and segregation at a European border when undertaking a journey of this nature is a startling reminder that we are always at risk of repeating the mistakes of the past, rather than learning from them. As the group speaks through barbed wire fences to refugees, it’s devastating to hear the strangers speak about Israel. “At school we were taught to hate Israel, to destroy it.”

Back to Berlin is a new, completely original telling on a story that has been told in a thousand different ways, and that in itself makes it a valuable, even necessary watch.

Back to Berlin opens in the UK on 23rd November 2018.

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