Monuments to a Disappearance

: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


During WWII, thousands of Jewish refugees were imprisoned in Canadian concentration camps. Today, their story resonates with contemporary refugees living nearby the old camps.


MONUMENTS TO A DISAPPEARANCE is an experimental documentary that tells the story of 2,000 Jewish refugees who escaped Nazi oppression only to be imprisoned in concentration camps in Canada. Through an essayistic voiceover, their story is conjoined with that of contemporary refugees living nearby the old camps.



  • Archival audio in which internees narrate stories about their lives and about the camps.
  • Passages of voiceover in which questions that are raised—or ignored—by the archival material are further developed.
  • Contemporary interviews that will help establish modern and iconoclastic views of the internment camp story.
  • Vérité segments documenting the lives of the Al-Jabber family in Sherbrooke that connect the historical story with contemporary refugee politics, but without didacticism. The film pulls from a number of cinematic traditions including the structural filmmaking of the 1960s and 70s, and the film essay, best exemplified by the work of Chris Marker.

Stylistically, I intend to repurpose some of the groundbreaking work of Hollis Frampton—like his film (nostalgia)—and Chantal Akerman, especially her film From the East, which are great inspirations to the visual language of this project. Both directors engaged with longue durée shots that evoke a sense that the deeper the experience of a moment, the greater the accumulation of that experience. By visiting the sites of many of the camps—and their ruins—I hope to show how the internees’ experiences are still imprisoned here and that their memory can still be rescued from historical oblivion. The voiceover dwells on questions of identity and memory; both personal and institutional. How did the internees re-fashion their sense of self? In what ways was it an act of liberation or of submission? And how does the Canadian state play a role in the memorialization of the camps?

Part of my process has included significant archival research and I have access to materials that I believe have never before been used for a film. I have located 175 hours of oral history interviews recorded by and with camp survivors in the 1970s which provides a unique chance to use survivors own voices to tell their stories. Additionally, the Canadian Department of National Defence has recently digitized the entire archive of its internment operations—making available tens of thousands of pages of documents that I intend to incorporate into the project. Finally, I have located a copy of a film shot by the Red Cross in 1944, documenting the Sherbrooke camp, which has been rarely seen since its production—even by scholars and researchers of the camps. I am also in communication with some of the last living internment survivors and recorded an interview with Eric Koch—a Sherbrooke internee—just months before his death.


Nate Lavey - Director/Editor
Nate Lavey is a video journalist and filmmaker. He was born in New Hampshire and lives in New York City. He has worked for National Public Radio, the Jewish Daily Forward, and The New Yorker. He has covered social struggle in the aftermath of the Tunisian revolution, student uprisings in Quebec, and depleted nuclear production facilities in New York City. He has received awards from the Deadline Club, Center for Community and Ethnic Media, and the National Press Photographers Association.

Sarah Mortimer - Consulting Producer
Sarah Mortimer is a film producer and photographer working in Toronto and New York. She has produced visual content for clients such as CNN’s Great Big Story, The Texas Observer, CBC Arts, Conde Nast and more. In her personal body of work, Sarah is primarily interested in exploring the intimacy of female friendships, the effects of trauma on development and the curious nuances of the human mind. She is currently at work on a short documentary about a woman named the Queen of Rikers.


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