A series by the award-winning producers On The Spot

Some people were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. As a child they had to survive the darkest moments of the history of the 20th century: World War II,  the Communist work camps, the Vietnam War, the notorious prisons of the Khmer Rouge, the Sarajevo Siege or a North Korean prison camp.
How did they survive? As adults, how did they come to terms with their past and the burdensome history they experienced? What can they do with their miraculous survival?

This character-driven documentary film series is set in the present, but its theme is closely tied to history: we explore how the circumstances of our birth influence our lives, whether traumas can be inherited and what strategies different people choose to process their past.

  • USA: Edith Eva Eger
    Official Selection – VERZIO International Human Rights Film Festival
    In the 1940’s a teenager gymnast in Kassa, Edith was aiming to get into the Hungarian Olympic Team but she could not become a member because she was from a Jewish family. In 1944 with her parents and sister, she was deported to Auschwitz where the notorious Nazi doctor, Josef Mengele tore her out from the row which was lining up to the gas chambers. Mengele promised Edith that she would meet with her mother soon who was “just going to have a shower”. Edith’s parents were killed on that day. Not long after she found herself in front of Mengele who commanded the prisoners to dance… and Edith started to dance for The Blue Danube Waltz while closing her eyes. This is how she survived the death camp.
    (The autobiography of Edith Eva Eger, ‘The Choice’ has been listed by Bill Gates as one of his 5 favorite books of all times)
  • SARAJEVO: Lilies of Sarajevo
    Official Selection – Sarajevo International Film Festival BH Program
    Official Selection – INPUT International Public Television Conference, New York
    In Sarajevo recently opened the first war museum that concentrates on children who grew up during the war. The three protagonists of our film are three young Bosnian adults who were children during the longest siege of history. Kemal only remembers images and feelings from the war so he rationally cannot explain what traumas caused his panic attacks from darkness and lightnings for years. Asja remembers everything: she almost died twice when she found herself in the middle of grenades and snipers at the age of 6. As a screenwriter she used writing and filmmaking as a therapy in order to get rid of her nightmares. Our third protagonist, Mela was one of the faces of the siege in the international press because the story of the beautiful ballet dancer girl touched both war correspondents and viewers around the world. She wrote over 1000 diary entries during the war. Many times her life was in dange: she was almost killed 10 years after the war, in London where she was hit by a double-decker bus. She was in a coma for five weeks and lost all her memories. A long therapy brought back her traumatic memories with the help of diary entries and the archival footages about her…
    Three very different structures of memories about growing up in the daily shadow of death during the siege.
  • CANADA: Dr. Gabor Mate
    The world-famous doctor, Gábor Máté was born in 1944 in Budapest as the child of a Jewish family. At the moment of his birth his father was at forced labour and many of his relatives were taken to concentration camps, from where they never returned. His mother wrote a diary about the times before and after his birth, which had a serious impact on Dr Máté even decades later… After the war the family defected to Canada where Dr Máté became the expert of addictions. In his research he explored how childhood memories and traumas affect people’s long-term health. His conviction is that the circumstances of our birth fundamentally determine our lives. This principle was confirmed by his studies in the last decades which was published in international bestsellers, translated to over 40 languages.
  • KOREA: Shin
    Shin was born and grew up in a strict North Korean prison camp. As a teenager he denounced his own mother and brother for planning their escape which led to their execution Shin had to watch. When he escaped to South Korea through China as a young adult, he had to learn what life outside the prison camp meant. He needed to understand such basic concepts like time, freedom, family or money. How can Shin live with his past in the extremely modern society of Seoul after the darkest side of North Korea? Can he ever recover from his painful memories?
  • VIETNAM: Amerasians
    During the Vietnam War hundreds of thousands of foreign soldiers were fighting in Vietnam. Tens of thousands were born as children of Vietnamese mothers and foreign fathers, among them were two protagonists of our film, Tuy and Brian. They left Vietnam as members of the so-called “Amerasian” minority. They grew up in the US but recently moved back to their country of birth. The third protagonist of the film is Landon who was left in an orphanage with his twin sister after their mother’s death. Their lives were at constant risk because of the lack of supplies. Within the framework of Operation Babylift, “Amerasian” orphans were supposed to be rescued from Vietnam by the US Army, but the first plane tragically crashed. On that plane travelled Landon with his twin sister… Through a miraculous story this episode describes how Brian, Tuy and Landon lived their Vietnamese and adoptee identities in the US, and why they returned to Vietnam where they became best friends.
  • CAMBODIA: Khmer Rouge
    The father of the Cambodian Norng was taken and executed by the Khmer Rouge soldiers of the Pol Pot regime. Norng was imprisoned with his brother and mother in the notorious Tuol Sleng prison. His mother was tortured and killed. Norng was hiding under the heap of clothes of the dead prisoners for three days with three other children, until the prison was liberated. He was one of the handful survivors. The shocking archival footage from the time of the liberation clearly shows the eight-year-old boy, who did not only save his own life… However, Norng is still haunted by his past, because they were hiding a one-year-old infant too, who did not survive the liberation… Norng is currently the employee of the Genocide Museum therefore every single day he returns to the location of the tragedies of his early childhood.
  • INDIA: Partition
    In 1947 a British lawyer who had never been to India before, drew the borders of India and Pakistan using old maps and a ruler. 10 million people left for a new home, Muslims migrated to the North while Hindus moved to the South. Due to the aftermath of World War II, the biggest migration of the 20th century is still a relatively untold story in Europe. We tell the story from the perspective of a little girl who suddenly became the enemy in Muslim Pakistan because of her religion. Her parents considered that they would not be able to escape from the fighters arriving to their village, so they committed a family suicide by throwing their children into the river, then they also jumped after them. Only our protagonist survived this family tragedy, who tells her story for the very first time on camera.
  • ROMANIA: Andras Visky
    Under the Communist regime often entire families were sent to work camps. András Visky was born in 1957 as the son of a pastor of the Reformist Church. When his father was imprisoned, András and his whole family was transported to a lager town on the Baragan-lowland. While spending 6 years in the harsh conditions that killed many fellow inmates, he experienced humiliation and the cruel world of Communist work camps early on. He was treated as guilty even though he was just an innocent child. Now András is a well-known writer and director, working primarily at the Hungarian Theatre in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. In his works he regularly processes memories of captivity and guilt. How can a Transylvanian Hungarian writer deal with the traumas of his past – before and after the democratic change of the political system in Romania?
  • SAUDI ARABIA: Ensaf and Raif Badawi
    Opposition blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to jail and public flogging for his spreading liberal views on the internet in Saudi Arabia. His father renounced him on a live TV-show and asked for his prosecution by Sharia law. Raif’s wife and children escaped to Canada where they got asylum. The film gives an intimate portrait of a family living in exile, with the trauma of an imprisoned and absent father.
  • WERK: Best Of
    This is how this unique and personal history series has been created by award-winning documentary filmmakers Eszter Cseke and Andras S. Takacs across four continents, presenting children of Auschwitz, the Khmer Rouge or Sarajevo’s siege. How did they survive? As adults, how did they come to terms with their past and the burdensome history they experienced? What can they do with the miracle that they survived?

Read On the Spot’s success story here


Partner(s) : SUNDANCE TV, MTV Hungary

Broadcaster(s) : SUNDANCE TV, MTV Hungary

Director(s) : Eszter Cseke & Andras S. Takacs

Author(s) : Eszter Cseke & Andras S. Takacs

Year : 2017

Duration : 10x52' minutes

Festival(s) :
Official Selection – VERZIO International Human Rights Film Festival Official Selection – Sarajevo International Film Festival BH Program Official Selection – INPUT International Public Television Conference, New York