'Poetry of Resilience' is a documentary by Academy Award®-nominated director Katja Esson about six international poets who individually survived Hiroshima, the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, the Kurdish Genocide in Iraq, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Iranian Revolution.
These six artists present us with a close-up perspective of the "wide shot" of political violence. Each story is powerful, but the film’s strength comes from its collective voice: different political conflicts, cultures, genders, ages, races – one shared human narrative.
Majid Naficy, who fought the Shah in Iran and then witnessed the murder of his family by forces of Ayatollah Khomeini, states: "Artistic creativity is the only thing left to you as a survivor."
"I wish I could say the human spirit is resilient," says Chinese poet Li-Young Lee, "some days I don’t think so."
Lillian Boraks-Nemetz knows why she survived the Holocaust: "I am a witness and I am telling the story."
Japanese poet, Yasuhiko Shigemoto, sums up his experience in one haiku:
"Still being alive / seems to be a sin for me. / Hiroshima Day."
The film takes us to memorial sites in Poland, Rwanda, and Hiroshima; we also travel to the clogged streets of New York City’s Chinatown and the boardwalks of Venice Beach. We witness the contrast between the voyages back to the poets’ home countries with their experiences of immigration and exile.
As we follow these survivors into their past and present lives we learn that they write for different reasons: to remember, to take revenge, to curse, to forgive, to honor, to commemorate, to transcend. For all, poetry was the gift that restored.