VILLA AIR BEL A film by Jörg Bundschuh

Author and Director Joerg Bundschuh

Director of Photography Joerg Schmidt-Reitwein

Sound Mixer Alexis Ward

Editor Clara Fabry

Producer Joerg Bundschuh

A Kick Film production in coproduction with BR

On the 4th of August, 1940, the American journalist Varian Fry left New York on the Transatlantic Clipper and flew to Europe. He was the envoy sent by the American Emergency Committee whose goal was to assist the writers, painters and musicians persecuted by Hitler. The place of refuge was Marseille. But one was no longer safe there; half of France was at that time occupied by German troops, and an extradition agreement with Germany was in effect. Departures from France grew more difficult each day. When Fry arrived in Marseille he thought he would complete his work in three weeks. He ended up staying there 13 months. Together with a small group of young Europeans and Americans, he set up an illegal refugee assistance organization. Among Fry’s colleagues who were living there were such "clients" as André Breton, Max Ernst, Oscar Dominguez, Victor Serge and Victor Brauner. Pressure from the French authorities and resentment on the part of the American state department led to Fry’s arrest in September 1941. Despite his subsequent deportation, his organization carried on at full force. Over 2000 opponents of Hitler were saved in this way until the end of the war. Among them were: Marc Chagall, Marcel Duchamp, Lion Feuchtwanger, Jacques Hérold, Wilfredo Lam, Jacques Lipschitz, Golo Mann, Heinrich Mann, Valeriu Marcu, André Masson, Benjamin Péret, Franz Werfel... This film recounts the story of Fry and his rescue team in Marseille. It also attempts to give an inner view of a man both European and American culture owe a great deal to, a man who nevertheless was to die unknown and forgotten in 1967. Silver Hugo – Chicago Filmfestival 1987

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