At 91 years old, Sonia Warshawski is one of the last survivors of the Holocaust. Living in Kansas with her family, she still is as active as ever and uses her stories of her time at Auschwitz to inspire others to do better in their own lives. Sonia also still runs a tailor’s shop and it has been open for decades and it all seems to be due to her incredible personality and determination to carry on.
Big Sonia is a documentary about Sonia Warshawski’s co-directed by Sonia’s granddaughter, Leah who also interviews her for the film. It follows her as she recalls her life during the Holocaust and looks at her life in the present day as it shows what she does now. There are also interviews with the rest of her family, including her daughter who has vivid memories of childhood which although were happy, were overshadowed by the traumatic experiences that her parents endured.
However, Sonia and her daughter couldn’t be closer and their experiences together make Sonia’s story fleshed out into a rich life with an inspirational story showing light after such tragedy.
Sonia’s life takes her all over and her stories of the worst moments of her life are shown to connect with all kinds of people. People from students to prison inmates are all shown to have rehabilitated because of the workshops in which she participates.
The audience does also get first hand stories themselves though, told by Sonia and simply but beautifully animated, depicting her experiences as almost a dreamlike state. Stories which many audiences may find horrific, but may also bring hope due to Sonia’s world view.
There are times when it seems that the documentary may move away from Sonia in order to deal with other issues. Issues such as the trauma experienced by students or the way prisoners often reoffend. However, they’re only there to enhance and inform the audience about Sonia’s good work.
Putting it all into the space of roughly an hour doesn’t seem to do Sonia’s story justice because as much as the audience may become enthralled with her as a person, they may also want to help her when times get desperate for herself. However, Big Sonia seems to have never let anything get her down. So, the audience may feel that no matter how old you are and whatever you’ve been through, there’s always something you can do to make things better.
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