BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER, a documentary film by Christophe Cognet, will be released in the US by Cinema Guild. BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER, an official selection at the Jerusalem Film Festival and other international film festivals, will open at Lincoln Plaza in New York City on April 24. A national release will follow.

In 1945, when the Allies liberated the concentration camps, they discovered thousands of secretly created artworks. These drawings, hidden from the Nazis, offer an unparalleled understanding of life in the camps. Featuring interviews with surviving artists, curators, as well as recently uncovered evidence, this fascinating documentary considers the ability of art to capture, reflect and survive under unimaginable conditions.

BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER explores a wide range of perspectives, from an artist who grapples with finding beauty in paintings of corpses to Treblinka survivor Samuel Willenberg who believes that the artworks can be nothing but inherently devoid of beauty. In addition to works intended as art, the film contemplates the role of alternative relics such as portraits of Romani victims killed by infamous Nazi physician Josef Mengele and paintings that were recreated years later because originals were lost or destroyed.

The film looks at paintings, drawings, wash drawings, and sculptures held in collections in France, Germany, Israel, Poland, Czech Republic, Belgium and Switzerland. While drifting among these fragments of clandestine images and the vestiges of the camps, BECAUSE I WAS A PAINTER undertakes a sensitive quest amid faces, bodies and landscapes to explore the notion of art—and its preservation—as an atavistic necessity.

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