Sweden, Belgium, Norway
One of these days, 28 April 1945, was carefully documented by Swedish news media. Some of the best film photographers were in place to capture haunting images, often in close up, of people who just escaped the horrors of the camps. The archive footage from Malmö is around 40 minutes long and unique in its kind.
I became fascinated by the faces in the material, the newly liberated survivors who were standing in the harbour of my hometown. I asked myself: would it be possible to identify these survivors, almost 70 years later?
A long cinematic journey started here, which led to two different documentaries: HARBOUR OF HOPE (2011) which tells the big story about how a Swedish city takes care of the survivors in 1945, and EVERY FACE HAS A NAME (2015), which is a more conceptual mission to put names to the anonymous faces. These two films, I’m proud to say, have been able to travel the world and collect awards.
The survivors in the archive footage from April 1945 are from different backgrounds, among them Jewish survivors, members of the Belgian resistance, British agents, Norwegian resistance men and Polish women with newborn babies. We were able to identify many fascinating stories of survivors.
One of the most enigmatic persons in the footage from the harbour was of a Chinese-looking woman, standing against a wooden fence wearing a striped camp uniform. She had a very serious face, unlike many others who were openly happy about their liberation and the arrival to Sweden. During the editing of my two first documentaries, we always came back to the images of this fascinating woman. What is she thinking of in this moment? What became of her after the war?
At first we were just able to find out her name – Nadine Hwang – and it took a year after the premiere of EVERY FACE HAS A NAME until we discovered what happened to her after the war. A Venezuelan woman, based in Paris, had noticed our search and call for help, published in social media. She wrote us that Nadine Hwang was her babysitter when she was an infant back in Caracas, Venezuela at the end of the 1960s.
The final missing pieces of information on Nadine Hwang came when I visited a screening of EVERY FACE HAS A NAME in Paris in late 2016. There, I was approached by the farmer couple Sylvie and Christian. They gave me the full story about the relationship between Nadine Hwang and the Belgian singer Nelly Mousset-Vos, who’s Silvie’s grandmother. In the attic of their farm was a treasure of archives, including a diary from the camp years.
So, suddenly I had another big story, related to the archive footage from Malmö 1945, in my hands. I certainly never dreamed of ever making one more film in this setting, but I realised I had to take care of this gift.
Doing a WWII and a Holocaust related documentary is challenging. There’s so many of them and you always face the risk that the viewers become immune to these important stories. You definitely need to find a new angle and add something that’s never been told before.
I’m lucky to have a love story in my hands. Two women who fall in love in a barrack in the Ravensbrück camp, which gives them the strength to endure the horrors of the Nazi camps. We might have heard something similar before, but the difference is the documentation. Nelly’s diary is a unique and detailed source, together with the letters, photos, films etc from later periods of their lives.
The revealing of the love story is at the core of the film. In the beginning of our film the grandchild Sylvie Bianchi is not aware of the scope of Nadine and Nelly’s love relationship. When the journey ends, she has understood the power of their relationship and their struggle for being true to themselves. The many written testimonies, like the diary and letters, create a strong focus on the two women and brings us close to them.
NELLY & NADINE has given me the possibility to combine my curiosity on history and music with the passion for telling stories about people fighting for freedom, love and the right to be who they are. Once again, I have realised, I have the most privileged job in the world.
Magnus Gertten’s latest works include feature length documentaries ONLY THE DEVIL LIVES WITHOUT HOPE, BECOMING ZLATAN and EVERY FACE HAS A NAME. ONLY THE DEVIL LIVES WITHOUT HOPE premiered at cph:dox, HotDocs and EIDF Korea and travelled world-wide to festivals and on television. BECOMING ZLATAN, co-directed with his younger brother Fredrik Gertten premiered at the 2015 IDFA festival and has travelled international festivals and was sold for distribution worldwide including a global deal with Netflix. EVERY FACE HAS A NAME was co-produced and pre-sold to 11 broadcasters worldwide and has received several international awards, including a FIPRESCI Award. The film was screened at The European Parliament. His film TUSEN BITAR / A THOUSAND PIECES, co-directed with Stefan Berg, has sold over 160.000 tickets in Nordic cinemas. It was the best reviewed film in Sweden among all cinema releases in 2014.
His documentary HARBOUR OF HOPE had Swedish cinema release and its international festival premiere at Thessaloniki Documentary Film festival in March 2012. Among Magnus’ other films are ROLLING LIKE A STONE (2005) and LONG DISTANCE LOVE (2008). ROLLING LIKE A STONE won the Best Music Documentary Award at the Silverdocs/AFI Festival in 2006. LONG DISTANCE LOVE won Best Documentary at Hamptons International Film Festival in 2009. LONG DISTANCE LOVE focused on Central Asia, just like ONLY THE DEVIL LIVES WITHOUT HOPE does.
Magnus Gertten has a background as TV and radio journalist, including several years as a music journalist. Since 2017 he’s an honorary doctor at the Malmö University.
2022 - NELLY & NADINE, Documentary
2020 - ONLY THE DEVIL LIVES WITHOUT HOPE, Documentary
2016 - A THOUSAND PIECES, Documentary
2015 - BECOMING ZLATAN, Documentary
2015 - EVERY FACE HAS A NAME, Documentary
2011 - HARBOUR OF HOPE, Documentary
2008 - LONG DISTANCE LOVE, Documentary
2005 - ROLLING LIKE A STONE, Documentary
Cast & Crew
Directed by: Magnus Gertten
Written by: Magnus Gertten, Jesper Osmund
Main Producer: Ove Rishoj Jensen
Produced by: Bram Crols, Mark Daems, Ingrid Galadriel Aune Falch, Christian Aune Falch, Torstein Parelius
Cinematography: Caroline Troedsson
Editing: Jesper Osmund, Phil Jandaly
Original Score: Marthe Belsvik Stavrum
Sound: Audun Røstad, Jørgen Meyer, Are Åberg, Krister Johnson Johnson, Katarzyna Maria Wieczorek
Casting: Jo Masset
Cast: Sylvie Bianchi
Nominations and Awards
- Documentary Selection 2022