Romola Garai (Emma, The Miniaturist), Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist, King Kong), Tim McInnerny (Peterloo, Harlots), and Iain Glenn (Mrs. Wilson, Downton Abbey) star in “The Windermere Children,” a British historical drama set at the end of the Second World War.
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Based on the true story of child Holocaust survivors who were brought to England’s Lake District to recuperate with the help of volunteer therapists, “The Windermere Children” is penned by “Home Fires” writer-producer Simon Block, and is directed by “Any Human Heart’s” Michael Samuels.
Without their families, the children find kinship in each other and form bonds that give them hope for the future.
Read on for details, the trailer, and the US premiere date on PBS.
One summer’s night in 1945 a coach-load of children, some as young as three years old, are in transit from Carlisle airport to the Calgarth Estate in Lake Windermere, England. They are child survivors, and presumed orphans, of the Holocaust.
With only a few meagre possessions, they do not know what awaits them in Britain. They speak no English and, having spent many years living in death camps, and are deeply traumatized.
At the end of World War II, the British government granted up to 1,000 children the right to come to the UK. Three hundred of these children were brought to Lake Windermere for their first four months to have the opportunity to recover, surrounded by nature.
In this touching period drama, the responsibility for looking after the children is held by Oscar Friedmann (Thomas Kretschmann), a German-born child social worker and psychoanalyst. He and his team are in uncharted territory: their project to mass-rehabilitate a group of children has never been attempted before.
The counselors, including art therapist Marie Paneth (Garai), philanthropist Leonard Montefiore (McInnerny) and sports coach Jock Lawrence (Glen), have four months to help the children begin to heal and reclaim their lives.
The children learn English, play football, ride bikes, attempt to integrate with the locals and express their trauma through painting. Haunted by nightmares, they yearn for news of their loved ones from the Red Cross, but in the absence of relatives, the children find family in each other.
The roles of the young children, who were advised by the Holocaust Museum, Lake Windermere; and the Holocaust Education Trust, are played by a talented cast of young European actors selected from Polish communities in Germany, London, Manchester and Belfast, as well as from Warsaw.
Trevor Avery, of the The Lake District Holocaust Project, said that the real child Holocaust survivors had “come from places of horror and arrived in the beauty of Lake District, they often described the feeling to me as effervescent. It was like arriving in paradise.” The children recovered in the Lake District for their first four months in the country.
Avery told The Jewish Chronicle: “We’ve worked really hard with the production company to make sure every historic fact is correct all the detail is included.” The 90-minute film is based on the powerful first-person testimony of orphaned survivors who rebuilt their lives in the U.K. following World War II.
“The Windermere Children” is the stark, moving and ultimately redemptive story of the bonds these children make with one another, and of how the friendships forged at Windermere become a lifeline to a fruitful future.
Executive Producers Wall To Wall Media, says the period film “is a story of hope after horror, revealing how Britain and a remarkable group of adults transformed the lives of 300 child survivors of the concentration camps. Seventy five years after the Holocaust ended it’s a story that feels as important and relevant as ever.”
“The Windermere Children” premieres on PBS Sunday, April 5, 2020, 10:00 – 11:30 p.m. ET. Rated TV-14
The historical drama will air on PBS stations following the premiere of “World on Fire” on MASTERPIECE. The night of programming centered around World War II “will bring both rich history and gripping storytelling to life.” (Maria Bruno Ruiz, Vice President of Program Scheduling at PBS)
Made in conjunction with the film, the powerful companion documentary “The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words” will be available to stream with PBS Passport on all PBS digital platforms on April 3, 2020. Featuring powerful interviews from the survivors themselves, the documentary is narrated by Glen and directed by Guy Arthur and Francis Welch.
“The Windermere Children” will stream simultaneously with broadcast on April 5, 2020 and be available for two weeks on all station-branded PBS platforms, including PBS.org and the PBS Video App for iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV and Chromecast. Two weeks after premiere, PBS station members can stream the film with PBS Passport (contact your local PBS station for details).
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to see The Period Films List, with the best British, historical and costume dramas sorted by era. You’ll especially the Best Period Dramas: First World War Era list, and the Interwar Era list.