Directed by: #EnricRibes
“Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it.” That’s a quote from the writer, scientist and Holocaust survivor, Primo Levi. The Nazi regime murdered millions of people and left the survivors so traumatised, they would never be able to mentally escape the camps, even if they had been freed from the concentration camps years before. Greykey wrestles with this trauma and explores its effects on interfamilial relationships.
This is the story of Muriel Grey Molay and her relationship with her father, José Carlos Grey. Grey was from Equatorial Guinea, and as a young man, he lived in Barcelona. When the Spanish Civil war broke out, he became a soldier. Later, he was a prisoner in Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. But the first memory Muriel recalls isn’t her father’s suffering. She talks about family holidays on the coast. The water laps against the shore and she recalls asking her father why he didn’t wear swimming trunks to go into the water, but instead kept his shirt and trousers on. He replies that he’s the dad, and if something comes up, he needs to be ready to sort it out. This documentary is far from an analytical exploration of the after-effects of the Holocaust; instead, Greykey records a daughter’s love for her father.
Rather than copying the stale documentary trope of filming someone speaking directly into the camera, Enric Ribes’ film is gloriously innovative. Armed with Muriel’s photo album, her voiceover, and a little bit of footage, Ribes does something magical. He does not merely project her photos as if they were slides, but hovers above them with his camera, allowing the sides of the pictures to subtly move, giving the images an animated quality. Like Chris Marker’s La Jetée, which is a film made entirely up of photos, in Greykey you quickly forget that the pictures are frozen in time, and it’s easy to believe that they move even when they don’t. Without music, these images may seem static. Guillermo Irriguible’s music choice is impactful and immersive. When we see pictures of José playing the guitar, we hear soft guitar music. When we see a baby being changed, we hear the sounds of water splashing. At the beach, water laps against the shore and people chat. Irriguible immerses us in Muriel’s memories, and through the music, these static images do come alive.
Squashed between the images of childhood holidays, dancing and visits to the Luxembourg Gardens, something far darker lurks below the surface. Flickering images of Nazi SS guards, men firing rifles during a war and emancipated prisoners are sandwiched between photos of happy childhood moments. Blink, and you will miss them, but scratch beneath the surface and there they are. Muriel talks about a Guinean coming-of-age ritual, but the images that flash on screen are of warfare and Nazi violence. It’s absolutely shocking. This short film fascinatingly juxtaposes José’s horrific wartime experiences with Muriel’s happier childhood, and it’s clear that José cannot put the trauma behind him.
The atrocities of the Holocaust are difficult to comprehend; never mind to film. Yet, director Enric Ribes’ film succeeds brilliantly. With the combination of Irriguible’s music and editing, Molay’s voiceover, and Ribes intelligent directorial choices, Greykey profoundly impacts the viewer. This project was incredibly personal. This film is powerfully candid, and it allows you to understand that trauma can fix you to the same spot all your life, but, even so, hope is still possible.