The Netherlands, UK


THREE MINUTES – A LENGTHENING presents a home movie shot in 1938 by David Kurtz of the Jewish inhabitants of the Polish town Nasielsk and tries to postpone its ending. The film is a haunting essay about history and memory. As long as we are watching, history is not over yet. The three minutes of footage, mostly in color, are among the very few moving images that remain of the Jewish inhabitants of Nasielsk before the Holocaust. The existing three minutes are examined moment by moment to unravel the stories hidden in the celluloid. Different voices enhance the images. Among them are writer Glenn Kurtz, grandson of David Kurtz, and Maurice Chandler, who appears in the footage as a young boy. THREE MINUTES – A LENGTHENING is narrated by Helena Bonham Carter and informed by the book 'Three Minutes in Poland' by Glenn Kurtz.

Director's Statement

As a child, David Kurtz emigrated from Poland to the United States. In 1938, he returned to Europe for a sightseeing trip and whilst there he visited Nasielsk, the town of his birth. Specifically for this trip he bought a 16mm camera, then still a novelty rarely seen in a small town never visited by tourists. Eighty years later his ordinary pictures, most of them in colour, have become something extraordinary. They are the only moving images that remain of Nasielsk prior to the Second World War. Almost all the people we see were murdered in the Holocaust.

On Facebook I stumbled upon a book written about this film, 'Three Minutes in Poland' by Glenn Kurtz. The title fascinated me. I ordered the book and watched the footage, which can be found on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While watching, I wondered: could you make those three minutes last longer, to keep the past in the present?

For this film essay I examined the footage in the fullest detail, to see what the celluloid would yield to viewers almost a century later. The footage is treated as an archaeological artefact to gain entrance to the past.

I contacted Glenn Kurtz, travelled to Nasielsk to see if any traces remained from the past, and went to Detroit to speak with survivor Maurice Chandler and his family.

After this extensive research, I edited the footage in different ways to bring to life as many of the facts and stories about Nasielsk as possible. A few seconds of the recording of a café become a dance scene, a single shot of the market square tells the story of the deportation of its Jewish citizens. All the faces that appear in the film are singled out and magnified to pay homage to the people of Nasielsk. The old images of the Polish town are combined with the way Nasielsk sounds today, creating a tense fusion of the past and the present.

THREE MINUTES – A LENGTHENING is an experiment that turns scarcity into a quality. Living in a time marked by an abundance of images that are never viewed twice, we do the opposite here: circle the same moments again and again, convinced that they will give us a different meaning each time. The film starts and ends with the same unedited found footage, but the second time you will look at it quite differently.

THREE MINUTES – A LENGTHENING investigates the nature of film and the perception of time. Through the act of watching, the viewers partake in the creation of a memorial.

Director's Biography

Bianca Stigter is an historian and cultural critic. She writes essays for Dutch quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad and was an associate producer on Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave and Widows. In 2019 she published the book Atlas of an Occupied City: Amsterdam 1940-1945.


Cast & Crew

Directed by: Bianca Stigter

Written by: Bianca Stigter

Main Producer: Floor Onrust

Produced by: Steve McQueen

Cinematography: David Kurtz

Editing: Katharina Wartena

Original Score: Wilko Sterke

Sound: Mark Glynne, Tom Bijnen

Visual Effects: Thaumar Rep

Cast: Helena Bonham Carter

Narrator: Helena Bonham Carter

Nominations and Awards

  • Documentary Selection 2022