Director Louise Archambault also had a world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Sunday afternoon. But in front of a completely different audience than that of the SOLO premiere, made up of a fairly elderly audience, including around ten Jewish Holocaust survivors, present in the room at the Bell LightBox.

Adapted from a play by Dan Gordon, briefly presented on Broadway in 2009, Irena’s Vow stars Quebecois Sophie Nélisse in the leading role. The film, the director’s first English-language feature, tells the true story of Polish nurse Irena Gut Opdyke who saved 12 Jewish people during World War II, hiding them in the villa of a German officer ( Dougray Scott), whose house she kept. Upset by the Nazi horror and the fate reserved for the Jews, she will risk everything by sheltering these men and women during a large part of the war in an underground cell of the villa, under the nose of her boss.

The director of Time of a Summer, Gabrielle and It Was Raining Birds shot the film, a Canadian-Polish co-production, in the winter of 2022 in Poland, very close to the Ukrainian border, while the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine began. “Reality suddenly met fiction,” Archambault said before the screening. History was repeating itself and we understood that our film is even more necessary and relevant. »

This historical feature film, with a very different and less controlled tone than the other previously cited works of Archambault, is a duty of memory, coupled with a tribute “to the moral clarity” of the Polish heroine who died in 2002.

The son of a Jewish survivor depicted in Irena’s Vow was also in the room Sunday. In the meeting with the public after the screening, he emotionally underlined the importance of such a film, full of love and openness, in our time when we are witnessing a “return of the extreme right and intolerance towards minorities”. The film’s music is by Alexandra Stréliski.

Irena’s Vow is an official selection of TIFF’s Centrepiece section, formerly known as Contemporary World Cinema. We also find the Quebec films Simple like Sylvain, Ru and Humanist Vampire Seeks Suicidal Consenting, which has just won first prize in the Giornate degli Autori section at the Venice International Film Festival.