Winner - Best International Documentary - Chagrin Falls Film Festival 2013

Winner – Audience Award Multimedia Happy End Film Festival, Rzeszow 2012

 Winner - Audience Award International Film Festival Jewish Motifs, Warszawa 2012

Winner - Bronze Phoenix International Film Festival Jewish Motifs, Warszawa 2012

Winner - Best Film Audience Award Prowincjonalia - Film Festival, Września 2012

 

 

BLINKY & ME

The untold story of Australian animator, Yoram Gross, comes to life in this new film that follows the artist and his family through his childhood in Nazi occupied Poland, in Israel, where he began creating animated art films, all the way to Australia, where he found his fortune and happiness through children animated features and the popular film series "Blinky Bill", for which he received the highest honor in Australia. Yoram Gross continues to create even today, with his 85-year-old youthful enthusiasm. Film is told with participation of his teenage grandchildren.

It’s rare that we get a chance to see a film that takes us through those horribly destructive years and leaves us feeling good. Yours is a particularly life-affirming work, and will bring pleasure to all who are fortunate enough to see it.                                                                                                                                                                                              - Alan Adelson, Executive Director, The Jewish Heritage Project

 

PRESS REVIEWS

 

Yoram Gross, the creator of the popular Australian animated series Blinky Bill, relates the story of his life, especially the horrors of World War II. As a young Jewish boy in Poland during the war, he experienced relentless loss and deprivation. The film combines scenes in his present-day home Australia, and in Poland, where he travels to trace his past. His five grandchildren accompany him on his trip; their questions to him are natural in bringing out some of the details of his experiences. The obvious affection between grandfather and grandchildren brings an added dimension to the film. Effective use is made of old photos and archival footage, interspersed with live action shots. Moving on to post-war, scenes from some of Gross’s first films provide a primer on beginning animation: with matches, newspaper, and wood puppets. All of these visual elements combine to keep the film moving and the viewer engaged. As Gross relates his childhood experiences – his narrow escapes, how he had to hide, the loss of family members, the unspeakable cruelties of war – his spirit shines through. He is revisiting for himself, but also to share with his grandchildren. How he took these life experiences and used them in the Blinky series is fascinating. The moving story, the family involvement, the personal development of an artist: all come together in this film. Even if American audiences are not familiar with Blinky or Yoram Gross, this film is an opportunity to meet them and to marvel at the triumph of art and family over war.   EMRO - Mary Northrup

Eighty-five-year-old Australian animator Yoram Gross revisits the dark times of his childhood in Nazi-occupied Poland through his cartoon counterpart Blinky Bill, a cuddly koala who cuts up in school, loves music, sometimes does the wrong thing, but is always upbeat through his misadventures. LIBRARY JOURNAL - Ellen Druda

Filmmaker Tomasz Magierski’s Blinky & Me is much less of a showbiz bio than a reflective work, as the octogenarian Gross, a Holocaust survivor, looks back upon his roots in the Polish Jewish community, his struggles under Nazism, immigration to Israel, and ultimately living with his farm dwelling family in Australia (where teen granddaughters still regard Yoram as young at heart.   VIDEO LIBRARIAN - C. Cassady

 

Tomasz Magierski’s lovely and lovingly made portrait of Gross’s life and career, it is a great if often sorrowful pleasure to take his word for much more. Using as a point of entry a trip the longtime Australian took with his five grandchildren back to his native Poland, in Blinky, the 85-year-old Gross narrates his experience of World War II from the streets of Krakow and Warsaw. Magierski frames a too-common story of horror, displacement, and survival with singular warmth: Now a dear old man, Gross is uncommonly gentle with his grandkids, who hang on his every syllable, and the unlikely creation of Blinky Bill is shown to be a direct result and reflection of his suffering. Animations and archival footage add context and texture; best are the simple sequences intercutting Gross and his grandchildren telling one of his stories—from the mouse he befriended while in hiding to the rescue of his sister from German incarceration. All this suggests storytelling’s binding effect across generations and too many borders. VILLAGE VOICE - Michelle Orange

 

“Blinky & Me” is a wonderful film documenting the life of animator Yoram Gross. Perhaps you’ve seen one of his amazing cartoons as a child? His most famous of which would be the cuddly Koala character known as Blinky Bill. “Blinky & Me”, a film directed by Tomasz Magierski, is just one of many amazing movies screened at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Being a WWII survivor Yoram Gross tells his grandchildren many stories of survival, adventure, and how he came to animation. It was great to see grandchildren so young, so enthused, so excited, about learning the history of their grandfather. There are so many amazing stories told by Gross in this heavily informative documentary. Yoram was telling his grandchildren about a time when he and his mother were separated and he had no idea where she had gone. The film cut to an episode of Blinky Bill (which I remember oddly enough) where Blinky begins to cry and says “my mama…. I can’t find my mama!”  I find moments like this amazing when everything comes together exactly how it was explained. Again I don’t want to give away too much but the stories Yoram gives in such detail at his age are absolutely incredible. It’s a film about his life as much as it is history in 1st person detail. I can happily recommend such a great film and give it a 9 out of 10. TPR - 

 

A Cute Koala Meets the Holocaust. Mr. Gross, in his 80s, recounts most of his own escape-filled wartime saga, often with his Aussie-accented grandchildren looking on and asking questions. (His autobiography, “My Animated Life,” came out last spring.) At every other turn he owed his survival to his artistic ability, whether to play a mouth organ or to decorate ceramics. The strain from his experiences is here pointed out in his work, from innovative mixed-media experiments to Blinky (a character created in the 1930s by the New Zealand-born illustrator Dorothy Wall).  Nicolas Rapold - NYT

You probably haven’t heard of Yoram Gross, which is exactly why Blinky & Me exist. A Polish animator responsible for one of Australia’s best-known cartoon characters, the elderly artist’s upbringing and career are chronicled in Tomasz Magierski’s humble but worthwhile documentary – which isn’t to say every scene comes as a revelation. An early segment finds Gross leading his family through the church, apartment and schoolyard that colored his youth in Krakow; like his grandchildren, we’re inclined to look on politely even when what’s happening isn’t especially interesting. Just as the horror of World War II fundamentally shaped him, so too are the implicit bedrocks of Blinky & Me as a whole: Archival footage is interspersed throughout most of it without comment. These images are strong enough to speak for themselves, and Magierski is right to let them do so. In the film most fascinating angle, Blinky Bill – by far Gross’ most famous creation, the animated koala ubiquity in Australia is at one point compared to that of Mickey Mouse – is largely relegated to the background, with Magierski instead focusing on his subject’s biography and how it indirectly brought the character into being. In this way, he shows the smiling koala (as well as Gross’ earlier, more experimental animations) to in fact be a vessel for its creator’s formative trauma. All of this is done wordlessly, organically; there’s no outright explication, just the implicit understanding that grief shows itself in many ways. LA WEEKLY - Michael Nordine

Among the movie's excellent selection of archival stills is a photo in which his parents' storefront is visible behind a Nazi rally. The astute camera work, most effective in the reunion that closes "Blinky & Me," captures lovely interactions between Gross and his grandchildren,           a happy rebuke to the destructive forces of the war.  LOS ANGELES TIMES – Sheri Linden

Magierski, in collaboration with Gross and three generations of his family — wife, children and grandchildren — gives us something different and quite smart, a child’s-eye view of a child’s life. After slowly taking us into the grandchildren’s lives and, more importantly, their minds, we meet Yoram; it is then that the film begins to take us through his story, with the kids providing a surprising amount of the narration. Magierski has found an entirely appropriate and involving way to tell that story to the young. Happily, Gross himself is such an engaging raconteur, that adults will be engaged too. THE JEWISH WEEK - George Robinson

Telling the story of Yoram Gross, a Polish Jew who narrowly escaped the Krakow and Warsaw ghettos to get trained as an animator in the Israeli Army before eventually moving to Australia, Tomasz Magierski’s documentary, at first glance, seems another exasperating but ultimately heartwarming memoir about the Nazi persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe and the centrality of Israel in stabilizing the Jewish diaspora. But the film complicates this impression by showcasing. Gross’s two biggest talents that reflect two diametrically opposed storytelling modes—he is an oral historian, who uses a family trip to modernday Poland to tell his grandchildren the story of his past, and he is an animator, who uses his most iconic creation, Blinky (a Koala Bear that became the Australian Mickey Mouse), to retell these same stories in allegorical form. This hybrid approach to representing history both violates and reinforces the old Jewish tradition of Bilderverbot, the prohibition against images, that after World War II came to underscore aesthetic and philosophical debates about Holocaust representation. CINEASTE - Roy Grundmann

Magierski uses archival materials so cleverly, we could swear we are seeing Gross in what look like stills and home movies from his childhood (even if they might be photos and stock-footage bits). Whether being interviewed by the director or peppered with questions by his awestruck and uber-cute grandchildren, Gross remains a lively, amiable and seemingly reliable raconteur. FILM JOURNAL INTERNATIONAL - Eric Monder

What do a koala cub searching for its mother and a Jewish girl hiding in the forest during the Holocaust have in common?  They are all both products of the fertile imagination and wartime ordeal of animator Yoram Gross. Though he has achieved fame as the Australian equivalent to Walt Disney, Gross spent his adolescence hiding from the Germans in Poland during World War Two. Known best for his adaptations of Australian children’s classics like Ethel Pedley’s Dot and the Kangaroo and Dorothy Wall’s Blinky Bill, Gross incorporates his experiences of evading capture by the Germans into animated films and television cartoons about youngsters separated from their parents and surviving in hostile environments with the help of bystanders. He conveys the human capacity for evil and passivity to juvenile audiences in plotlines which simultaneously affirm the human potential for goodness and resistance. Tomasz Magierski’s Blinky and Me introduces American audiences to this fascinating filmmaker. SAN DIEGO JEWISH WORLD - Laurie Baron

 

 

AUDIENCE REVIEWS

 

 

 

At my recent presentation of the film at the St. Louis Holocaust Museum and Learning Center, it was clear that the audience was enthralled by watching the elder Yoram Gross, the noted Australian animator, passing the baton of history to his grandchildren with great patience and humor. What a vibrant family! Viewing it one more time, I realized that behind the film's simplicity lies a tightly orchestrated symphony of highs and lows meant to encourage us all, as it says in the Torah, to choose life - fully aware of history.

- Pier Marton,  Shoah Educator/Artist-Filmmaker/Professor/Writer

Absolutely spell binding! Brilliant! Yoram is such a strong and wonderful soul!                                                         - Jill Rosenfeld Sisler, scholar 

Beautiful and moving. It was a great idea of involving children in the narration of the film. Thanks to that, this film can be appreciated on many different levels. Now it is not only a story of a man who survived the hell of war, found his happiness in Australia, and after many years goes back to the country of his childhood. Even for our generation, brought up in Poland (and brought up with stories of the war and martyrdom) what's was going on during WW2 is hard to comprehend. When one looks at the same reality through the eyes of children raised somewhere in remote Australia, the senselessness and absurdity of war is even more clear and difficult to imagine. A concentration camp or verdict because someone is Jewish or may have helped a Jew becomes such an abstraction that after watching this film, the saddest story you remember is the story of Yoram’s friendship with the mouse.                                                                                                                                        - Beata Zalot, journalist

The film is wonderful, wonderful from the very beginning, like a fairytale for children. If you don’t know whom it is about, that is how you feel. Then suddenly I realized that it is about that filmmaker that I read about, but hardly anyone knows him here. He is incredible, as a personality; a certain naiveté, kindness, it’s almost as if he’s from a different world…  After what he had survived, you would think that he would be full of hatred.             - Anita Leifel, writer

I really enjoyed your character. He very much uplifted me in spirit. His amazing combination of talent and fortitude enabled him to transform his traumatic experiences into an art-form of wonderful stories about the things that matter most in life. The benefit of these stories is already evident in his children and grandchildren and undoubtedly in thousands of the film’s viewers. And his sense of humor and kindness, oh wouldn’t it be nice if we all could be that way.                                                                                                                                 - Anna Ferens, filmmaker

This documentary touched me from inside, tickled me under my skin leaving a trace of emotions in my soul. I got chills on my skin, and a tear stirred in my eye. There wasn’t a moment where it stretched for too long or when my eyes wandered off the screen. I heartily congratulate you and thank you for this moving experience.      - Regina Wypych, photographer

It’s rare that we get a chance to see a film that takes us through those horribly destructive years and leaves us feeling good. Yours is a particularly life-affirming work, and will bring pleasure to all who are fortunate enough to see it.                                                                                                                                                         - Alan Adelson, Executive Director, The Jewish Heritage Project

A beautiful film about the inspiring Yoram Gross... I want to see it again!                                                                  - Nathalie Duval, writer

 While America has Mickey Mouse, Australia enjoys its own icon koala "Blinky Bill" - one of the many popular cartoon creations from animator Yoram Gross. A Holocaust survivor and pioneer in Israel's film industry, Gross' life story is more amazing than Disney's, as he here escorts his large Australian family back to Poland, a pilgrimage to a not-quite-Magic-Kingdom lost world of pre-WW2 cosmopolitan Jewry in Krakow, miraculous escapes and reunions, and tales of resilience and endurance.
     - Chagrin Documentary Film Film Festival

The presence of your film in our festival was a most thought-provoking, important, and moving artistic event.       - Daniella Tourgeman, Curator - Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival

It was a heartwarming evening, the movie touching but not sentimental. It lifted my spirits immeasurably. And meeting Mr. Gross was so "hamish" as we say in Yiddish. I teach at the Rudolf Steiner School, and was speaking of your wonderful movie to several teachers in the high school today, recommending it as a potentially great piece to show to students as history through biography.                                                             - Renni Greenberg Gallagher - M.A. Ed 

Thank you so much for sharing the screening of this enchanting movie. We all loved in and all for various and similar reasons. Have you seen it? If not, you should as it is not only inspiring + sweet but funny and engaging. If you have then you can appreciate our fondness for the film which is a holocaust movie like no other. Incorporating the cartoons and not showing the heinous scenes from concentration camps put a more enjoyable light on the movie. My mother liked the scenes of Poland, hearing Polish spoken, seeing the grandchildren surround their beloved Yoram and the memories of Poles helping jews for no payment. Yoram was in attendance and still going strong.                                                                                                                 - Alexandra Bellak 

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