Sunday, April 7, 2013

Red Star Line the silent movie 'dance' - 600 extras

The Red Star Line is one of these mythical lines: At least two million people used it to emigrate to the USA.  My mother after World War II was one of them. A silent movie Dance is being made by Hans Op De Beeck for the Red Star Line Museum. 500 extras were needed for scenes evoking the mass exodus. 600 showed up for the afternoon takes on a bitterly cold day. Several scenes were shot in a sober, serene even intimate way. No 'acting' but slow movements en masse, neutral face, a range of simple costumes in tints of tans, grays, and black accents. Of course such a day entails a lot of waiting among total strangers, sharing stories and blankets to keep warm. I think of Gershwin waiting in line, showering before getting on the boat, if one was impecunious and without funds one slept in communal spaces, going through immigration on Ellis Island... Maybe the war brides followed a different scenario. Since most were married before leaving for the USA they had all the necessary papers and it might have been less intimidating. Although leaving behind their mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters will not have been easy for most. I am sure most of these brides dreamed of 'American Kitchens' with fridges and washing machines, the good life. Yet American dreams often turned into American nightmares. The times in the late forties were hard, jobs and housing were scarce in the USA. Ten people living in a small clapboard house was more often the rule than the exception. Many people came to the set because of their family immigration background other were hobby-extras having participated in between 10 to 20 projects. Of course all of us have had to say goodbye to people, so a vague melancholy settled in my thoughts no longer thinking of my mother but thinking about my own comings and goings.

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