+ otherwise pictures llc


a question of sunlight

2019  |  video  |  color  |  sound  |  82 min
Holly Fisher
Lois V. Vierk
José Urbach, NY artist and Holocaust survivor

a hauntingly strange film about memory …

– John Crowley, author/professor

juxtaposes the jarring memories of 9/11 with the haunting trauma of the Holocaust … 

– Karen Remmler, professor, Mount Holyoke College


Recorded in the shadow of the Trade Towers only months after their collapse, A Question of Sunlight links 9/11 with the Holocaust, via “the telling of memories” by visual artist José Urbach, witness to both. José speaks almost magically, from childhood to the present, and anywhere in between. He was a Polish child born into the Holocaust, and as he watched the first plane smash into The World Trade Center from his kitchen window in lower Manhattan, he had a radical flashback to his earliest childhood memories. He recalls former times, other windows … like the bombing of the Polish airport that triggered the start of World War II. The paradox? José was in the belly of his mother that day, to be born many months later.

Unique to José’s telling is his desire to “actualize” his memories, to make them present and timely. He tells his stories vividly as if they were movies, in a continuous search for insight within the veils of memory which still haunt him. This unsettling vacuum between past and future is magnified by Fisher’s personal and found imagery laced within Urbach’s narrative – curtains flying out Paris windows; “Shock & Awe” on airport TV; rare footage by Joris Ivens from the seminal East German film Die Windrose – for resonance, or “to lend a breath of air …”  hf

Format here is deceptively simple – talking head/jumpcuts/spare imagery/ minimal sounds – but as the film plays out over time the viewer is drawn into the filmmaker’s intricate weave of seen and/or imagined stories in a psychic coexistence of past and present, sandwiched within the prospect of yet another pending war …


Archival material includes clips from Die Windrose (Joris Ivens, 1957) from DEFA collection housed at UMass/Amherst.


A Question of Sunlight is a hauntingly strange film about memory–its harms, its powers, its lapses, its surprises. A man speaks of a dreadful thing he believes he saw–and maybe he did. Around this sole figure a fractal cloud of images come and go, as partial and repetitive as memories. A unique and striking work.

–John Crowley, author/professor

… a monument to humanity at its best …Wow, what story and what a grace in telling it …

–Jordi Torrent, film producer/director

A Question of Sunlight juxtaposes the jarring memories of 9/11 with the haunting trauma of the Holocaust. We see and hear in vivid close-ups the artist José Urbach as he relives the scenes of Nazi invasion in his childhood Poland when faced with the smoldering ruins. … [the film] moves us to locate the narrative within images of life. Life goes on, people recoup their dignity and ability to create beauty, even as the images of death continue to haunt them.

–Karen Remmler, professor, Mount Holyoke College

An expression of the inexpressible. … a journey across a human face, a delve into the mysteries of what the human spirit can endure. … [this film] evokes the ways compassion and creativity can bridge chasms of experience.

–John Gianvito, filmmaker/professor

In New York, Many Holocaust Survivors Struggle to Get By

–Sophia Hollander, WSJ


Athens International Film and Video Festival, Athens, OH – avant-premiere and featured guest, 2013