Rosl's Suitcase

Letters and documents found in a suitcase in my mother’s basement in California, tell how the Nazi’s annexation of Austria effects the population. Rosl’s Suitcase is the story of my Jewish grandmother, who left Vienna for New York with my father in 1939 and my own factfinding quest: the suitcase’s contents reveal major discrepancies in what I had been told. For U.S. naturalization, Rosl writes to the Nazi administration to obtain a divorce from my grandfather. He had stayed in Austria and after 1941, was never heard from again. Juxtaposed is ‘60s psychedelic California via my own letters to my grandmother. Shot mostly in Vienna today, the film interweaves recordings by 3 generations: my great aunt’s 1947 movies; my aunt’s audio descriptions of her youth in Vienna; my own lightshow movies.

  • Elizabeth Lennard
  • Elizabeth Lennard
  • Peter Janecek
    Souls of a River, Moments of Resistance, Walter Arlen's first Century, Stuttering - My constant Companion, For My Sisters, China Reverse, JobCenter
  • Adah Dylan Jungk
    Key Cast
    "Adah - "the searcher""
  • Jakob Oberschlick
    Key Cast
    "Jakob - "Austrian administration""
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    Rosl's Suitcase
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Personal Story, History, Art
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 37 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    May 31, 2023
  • Production Budget:
    250,000 EUR
  • Country of Origin:
  • Country of Filming:
    Austria, France, Lithuania, Poland, United States
  • Language:
    English, German
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Elizabeth Lennard

2021 Birth of a Museum at Fontevraud Abbey 53 min. (docu)

2016 Talking House: Eileen Gray & Jean Badovici 43 min. (short)

2011 The Stein Family, The Making of Modern Art 54 min. (docu)

2009 Casa Bronfman co-directed with Ermanno Corrado, 38 min. (short)

2004 Serge Poliakoff at Close Range 52 min. (docu)

1998 Edith Wharton, the Sense of Harmony 52 min. (docu)

1985 Tokyo Melody, a film about Ryuichi Sakamoto 62 min. (docu)

1981 Meeting with Gisele Freund 14 min. (short)

1979 Mardi Gras 9 min. (short)

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

I grew up in New York and California, however my father was Viennese and I had a "European upbringing". I began living in Paris part time in the early 70s, perhaps in search of my father’s Europe, not wishing to settle in what was left of his Vienna. I remember as a child seeing my father break out into a cold sweat when we crossed the border into Austria in 1960, the first time he returned since WWII.
Paris was also an escape from the sexist movie industry atmosphere of Los Angeles and UCLA film school, where I studied. In Paris, a chance meeting with French writer/director Marguerite Duras led to working on her films. By re-creating a dialogue with my grandmother from my own teenage letters - Rosl’s Suitcase will echo what Duras called in an afterword to a photo album by my sister and I, "this incessant coming and going in the cage of the world…"
From a close-up of my father’s 1938 Heimat certificate, with a photograph of the Rathaus --the Vienna City Hall-- we go there today. Revisiting iconic sites like the Rathaus in Vienna, reiterates some of my photographic works where sites and monuments of New York and Paris are "transformed" by color and my documentary Tokyo Melody where Tokyo is seen anew through the eyes and sounds of late composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. In Rosl’s Suitcase Vienna landmarks are recharged through the prism of the pre-and post-war Vienna of my grandmother, father and my own lens today. Scenes are also set in the monumental stairway of the Vienna High Court Building, the University of Vienna courtyard, 1980s postwar city and national archives, the streets of Vienna, my father’s historic high school.
Rosl’s Suitcase echoes my own visual coming of age in 1960s and ‘70s California where San Francisco poster art was a direct revival of Turn of the 20th Century Vienna Secessionist poster art. As I read and translate letters and documents, pieces of the puzzle of my grandparents’ destiny fall into place. The film is personal, constructed from few elements, engaging the viewer like a fiction film. It touches upon Kafkaesque relations with bureaucracy; the propagation of falsehoods; the silence of the father and absence of the grandfather.