Three Minutes: A Lengthening – Review

Three Minutes: A Lengthening in select theaters August 19.

By Elazar Abrahams

In 2009 Glenn Kurtz found three minutes of historical footage deep in his grandfather’s closet. Specifically, clips from the small Polish town of Nasielsk, and its bustling Jewish community. These grainy videos are the only visual record we have of this settlement and its people before the Nazis mercilessly slaughtered them all. Three Minutes: A Lengthening begins by playing those 180 seconds in full, and the next hour brings viewers a haunting reflection on the importance of remembrance, and the world that was.

The footage itself is beautiful in its simplicity: the elders coming to and from synagogue, the gaggles of children jumping to be in the frame, the drably dressed women at the town square market. Helena Bonham Carter’s narration afterwards puts the home video into perspective. The rest of the documentary uses the most minute details from the reel to piece together any information accessible about the town and the Jews that perished there. A barely legible storefront sign, a carving of a lion, the smiling face in the background that might be a lone survivor’s relative – it is really incredible what enough persistence and research can uncover.

Audio interviews with historians, experts, and survivors paint a fuller picture of the three minutes in question, but the film never cuts away from the titular footage. You are forced to watch these same clips on essentially a loop. The filmmakers are urging us to not look away.

I give Three Minutes: A Lengthening an A-.