Present Past

A cerebral documentary by Anet van Barneveld and Annemarie Strijbosch about five women who survived the women's concentration camp of Ravensbrück.

Description» Credits »
Special Jury Prize, La Mo-viola, Turin, Italy, 1996
Best Feature Length Documentary, Silence, Elles tournent, Montreal, Canada, 1996
Best Feature Length Documentary, Award of the National Film Board of Canada, Silence, Elles tournent, Montreal 1996
Nominated for best short documentary. Dutch Film Festival, Utrecht, 1995

Screened at a.o.:

International Documentary Congress, Los Angeles, 1995.

SCALA Frauen Filminitiative, Munich, 1996.

Russian Antonina Nikiforova was exiled to Siberia


Hatred for foreigners is again on the increase in many European countries, pictures of the war in the Balkans are sometimes directly reminiscent of the Second World War, mafia attacks dislocate Italy and there is dramatic poverty in Russia. Despite the differences, a comparison with the period before the Second World War is almost inescapable.

PRESENT PAST is a documentary about five elderly women from different European countries. Five intriguing women who, separate from each other, live with their past in their own quite specific way.
The women involve us in their views on the present. How the women think and act now is often strongly linked to events they have witnessed in the past: all five were in the women's concentration camp Ravensbrück.

CEIJA STOIJKA is a gypsy, who lives in Vienna now. For a long time she wandered round Austria in a caravan with her family. She wished to forget about the war as soon as possible. But in recent years she has felt driven to write, sing and paint about this time.
For CEIJA the fear she felt as a child immediately relives since her grandchildren become more and more often the target of neo-fascist actions. She does everything that is in her power to prevent these actions. The present encourages her to tell her past again.

AAT BREUR, a Dutch artist, is a restraint person. Once she was a very active resistance fighter. She does not like to be reminded of the war, even though it keeps cropping up. In Ravensbrück she secretly made drawings, which are regularly exhibited.
Although things are going on these days, which would formerly have made her stand on the barricades - the moderate tolerant face of the Netherlands shows one or two
blemishes - these are not items that AAT can busy herself with anymore nor aims to do so. She often wonders if there has been any point in her resistance at all.
AAT lives in a provincial town in Holland, but soon she is going to return to Amsterdam, back to her (grand)children and old friends. Moving back seems te be her first open confrontation with the past.

ANTONINA NIKIVOROVA is an elderly doctor, who served in the Red Army.
She has known hunger and misery all her life. She remained loyal to communist ideals until recently, even though the KGB was responsible for her being banned to Siberia after the war. "If you've let yourself be taken prisoner, you must be a traitor to your country", was the way of thinking.
Now she struggles to get enough food for her family in poverty and criminal ridden Saint Petersburg. ANTONINA has become a cynic, she has seen it all. She never tends to compare Nazi-Germany to any situation in her own country. But she can hardly ignore the image of marching black shirts on the Red Square.

STELLA NIKIVOROVA is a middle-aged woman who was born in Belgium.
She married the son of ANTONINA. She works in an office for war victims. She tries to help them in getting a pension; the Russian state prefers to forget those left after the Second World War.
STELLA lost her mother in the camp, but she kept believing her father to be alive somewhere. This hope helped her to survive the terrors of the orphanage where she was placed after the war. ANTONINA helped her trace her father.
In her job she deals with Russia's bureaucracy in all its facets. She lost the battle for recognition of her own past: she is not allowed to attend her father's funeral in Brazil.
Yet she has not lost her ideals and she is still dreaming of better times to come.
She prefers emigrating.

LIDIA ROLFI lives in Mondovi, Italy. As a member of the city council for the socialist party, everyone knows her and comes to her for help and advice.
In the corrupt politics of Italy where increasingly larger numbers of people turn against the presence of immigrants from Africa, she devotes herself fully to seeing to problems of refugees and immigrants.
Her feelings rebelling against any form of injustice whatsoever, was inspired by French communistic women she met in Ravensbrück. After the war she became friends with Primo Levi and wrote, inspired by him, about her camp-experiences. LIDIA thinks hard about the differences and the possible similarities between Europe now and that of the pre-war period. How people make war over and over again.

The portrayal of five women in different countries gives in a perspective view a deeper understanding of present day Europe. The film draws a line to underlying feelings of the past. Recent news pictures and old archive material link the past with the present and they induce and reinforce the feelings of 'still' and 'again'.

Dutch painter Aat Breur does not want to be reminded of the war

Italian politician Lidia Rolfi in Present Past

Russian Stella Kugelman Griez lost her mother in Ravensbrück


The Women: Ceija Stoijka (Austria), Lidia Rolfi (Italy), Aat Breur (Netherlands), Stella Kugelman Griez (Russia), Antonina Nikiforova (Russia)

Written and directed by: Anet van Barneveld, Annemarie Strijbosch

Photography: Anet van Barneveld

Sound: Pepijn Aben

Music: Michel Mulders  

Editing: Denise Janzée

Produced by: Kaie Klaassen voor Moving Image Production

Present Past is a Moving Image Production for TV3/ Humanistische Omroep Stichting, co-financied by Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties, with the support of Documentary, Media Programme of the European Communities.

media programme Stimuleringsfonds Nederlandse Culturele Omroepproducties De Humanistische Omroep Stichting

Length: 50 min.

Format: 16 mm/1:1.33

Original languages: Italian, Russian, Dutch, German

Language versions: Dutch subtitled, English subtitled

Available on: 16 mm/1:1.33 / video / digital

copyright © Moving Image Production B.V., 1994