South African-born Jewish dancer Sadie Rigal led a double life during World War II in Paris, performing for German officers at night in music halls and working for the resistance by day. Now 86 and known as Florence Waren, the former dancer’s son, Mark Waren, has made three documentaries based on his mother’s stories about her diverse group of friends and their experiences during the war. The films, collectively titled “Paris Was My Liberation,” are being screened for the first time this month.
The first film, “Romance and Resistance,” follows Gisy Varga, a Hungarian-born nude dancer at the Bal Tabarin Music Hall who has an affair with a Jewish doctor and hides him from the Nazis. The second film, “The Count of Montmarte,” is the survival story of Mario Lembo, a gay Italian aristocrat-turned-performer and member of Josephine Baker’s touring company, whose selfless efforts in supporting the resistance and aiding Jews remained unknown and unrecognized during his lifetime. The third film, “Dancing Lessons,” follows the experiences of the director’s mother, including animated photographs shot by her dance partner, Frederick Apcar, and images of a French prisoner-of-war camp in Germany, along with the mother’s account of her experience at the Caserne Vauban internment camp in Besançon, France. Each screening, which includes interviews, archival film and animated stills, is followed by a panel discussion with the films’ creative team, including Waren and Oscar-winning director of photography Kevin Keating. Following the final screening, the director’s mother and Apcar are to be honored.