There’s hardly anything more serious than the Holocaust. The sheer scale of industrialized death and destruction still haunts our popular imagination with its power to warn, teach and terrify. Think, on the other hand, of Instagram, as a digital vanity fair, with its funny cats, daily outfits, and random thoughts of anonymous people. Can you put these two together in the same sentence, let alone a mental space? If in doubt, think again, as the Eva Stories Instagram account has proven wrong both its detractors and supporters as a project whose audacity and pioneering spirit is a story to tell in itself.
Eva Stories can be best described as an Instagram flick, adapted from the diary of one Eva Heyman, a 13-year old Hungarian Jewish girl who perished in Auschwitz back in 1944. This 60-minute movie is, in essence, a story of her predicament, filmed as a sequence of 70 short films in which a lead actress publishes Instagram stories that describe her daily existence. Yes, just like every girl next door you know.
The project is a brainchild of Mati Kochavi and his daughter Maya, both entrepreneurs working from New York and Tel Aviv. This creative duo will surely be remembered for telling a story larger than most of our lives and not only for the masterfully told account of Eva Heyman’s harrowing fate but for the medium which they selected for doing it.
While 300 million visits in only 48 hours following the film’s release in 2019 are a feat in itself, the social media format used to tell the story of the Holocaust has stirred much controversy, some of it being at least partially rooted in the generational misunderstanding.
For those who say that the Holocaust is best remembered through the more “serious” media of books, television, or cinema, Mati Kochavi (see on IMDB) has a friendly reminder: TV was criticized for its inanity not too long ago and it all boils down to a generational lens through which we see Instagram and the social media in general. He sees Instagram as a mere tool, a platform to reach out to new generations of viewers and tell them stories worth remembering in the way they may feel at home with as digital natives.
As a member of the post-Millenial Gen-Z generation, his daughter Maya helped Mati bring this groundbreaking idea to fruition, but you can say that there is a darker underside to her motivation to go with the project.
Being a youngster herself, just as the unfortunate Eva Heyman, Maya felt that using Instagram to tell her story was not only the way to conquer new technological grounds but to use the film as a warning bell for our increasingly radicalized and disoriented younger generation.
In our age of post-truth, fake news, and targeted misinformation media campaigns, the Holocaust has become a distant event in the past at best or a narrative that is to be challenged at worst. With the rise of modern-day anti-Semitism, social media have become a vehicle of radicalization of youth, and telling Eva’s story via this misused medium has become something of an artistic and historical mission.
Whatever you may think of using the modern media to narrate the eternally relevant stories from our darker past, Eva Stories comes off as an honest, authentic, and technically remarkable achievement. Even if you do not agree with the use of its native platform, Eva Stories is a complex story of our age and the way in which the past clashes with modernity whenever we try to preserve the memories which have to be rekindled with each new generation.