Catherine Luhrie’s documentary Back to Berlin enters its subject matter almost right away, reflecting the energy of the 75 minutes film that doesn’t have a single second to spare.
The introduction opens on the Maccabiah Games, an international Jewish multi-sport event similar to the Olympic Games that dates back to the 1930s, a decade in which, to promote the event, a group of bikers rode from countries to countries to inform other Jews about it.
80 years later, another group of Jewish bikers decide to go on a similar journey to reach the 2015 Maccabiah Games in Berlin: on the way, they will cross nine different countries and visit cities and landmarks tied to personal family stories related to the Holocaust.
Because it follows people around Europe and throughout time, the film is always in movement and favors on-location shots and archive pictures over on-camera interviews shot on a plain background.
This makes the testimonies feel more real and poignant, especially as they are told not to the audience but to the bikers themselves: indeed, it is each biker that tells the others of their own personal family stories, transforming their journey into a bigger picture assembled from individual pieces of the past.