For more than a decade, filmmaker Suzannah Warlick periodically chiseled away at 130 hours of footage to complete her latest passion project—a 58-minute documentary called Passage to Sweden.
“During the course of 14 years, I did a little here and there. So many years went by that I didn’t touch it,” Warlick told the Sun. “We started shooting in 2006, and I didn’t finish the movie until 2020.”
The documentary examines World War II-era Scandinavia and tells the true story of how thousands of Jews were spared from the Holocaust by being smuggled into Sweden. For the documentary, Warlick, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor herself, spent years interviewing individuals who lived in Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Hungary during World War II.
The California-based filmmaker has screened the feature at film festivals and during special events in venues in Los Angeles, North Hollywood, Santa Clarita, and other cities over the past few years.
On Sunday, April 30, she’s taking the film to Solvang for a free screening at Bethania Parish Hall. Passage to Sweden marks her fourth film to date as a director, producer, and editor, whose past credits are The Queen’s Court, Supporting Actors, and Match & Mary.
The upcoming Solvang screening of Passage to Sweden is co-sponsored by Bethania Parish Hall, the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art, and the Santa Ynez Valley Jewish Community. A longtime resident of Valencia, Warlick is excited to trek up the coast to attend the Solvang event, which will also include a special Q-and-A.
She recently carved out some time for separate questions and answers with the Sun over the phone.
Sun: Based on your experience screening Passage to Sweden for events in various settings over the past few years, how would you say most viewers are reacting to the documentary so far?
Warlick: The main comment I get all the time after showing the film is that this needs to be in schools; this needs to be taught to kids. So I’m trying my hardest to get it into schools. As we’re going around to audiences, you notice that people know about the Holocaust in generalities, but people don’t know what happened in that region of the world—it’s not highly talked about when you talk about the Holocaust.
Sun: Why do you think this particular story isn’t more widely known? Why isn’t it highly talked about?
Warlick: People talk more about what happened in Poland or France or Britain, but not so much about what happened in Scandinavia. I’m even noticing going around to audiences of Scandinavian background that they aren’t so familiar with the stories. So I’m very happy to be educating people who are not familiar with these stories.
Sun: When you first started working on the film, how did you approach the process of discovering potential sources for the documentary? How did you find your interviewees?
Warlick: I knew some people initially, and when you make a documentary or a film like this, it always ends up being a domino effect. You’ll go and interview somebody and they say, ‘Oh, you know who you should talk to, you should talk to so-and-so.’ And then you follow the lead, and that’s how it is. You start with a couple of people that you pinpoint and they tell you who else you should interview.
Sun: As an experienced filmmaker, with four documentary entries in your filmography so far, what do you think draws you most to documentaries specifically?
Warlick: I have a curious mind and I used to be a teacher. I think the best way of teaching anything is through film—especially documentaries. I make documentaries about topics that interest me, and I hope that the same thing interests other people.
Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood also has a curious mind. Spark his curiosity at [email protected].