Aron Attiwell: Lest we Forget Fading Numbers

April 20, 2021
The 20-year-old Western Australian filmmaker has just wrapped what he describes as “Australia’s largest independent holocaust film”.

The title of the short film, Fading Numbers, refers to the tattoos placed on Jewish concentration camp prisoners, and the metaphor for the decreasing number of survivors, and the general public’s memories of this horrific event, brought on by time and the mixed messaging of media, social or otherwise, and the divisive nature of debate nowadays.

Helped by the grace of 75 volunteer crew members, director Aron Attiwell has already received support from Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), and the Holocaust Institute of Western Australia.

We emailed Attiwell to find out what is behind this highly ambitious and intriguing project.

Do you have a film education at all; if so, where? How was it?

“Yes, I did a Diploma and Advanced Diploma at North Metropolitan TAFE. I was contemplating on whether or not to go to university, but seeing that TAFE offered immediate hands-on experience with industry equipment, it was a no-brainer for me to study there and immediately start making films.

What does the community support from Josh Frydenberg, USHMM and the Holocaust Institute of Western Australia entail?

“The support is not in any way financial. It is patronage by Mr. Frydenberg and other community organisations. I have sat down and discussed the project with them, and they have all agreed to promote it. Mr. Frydenberg was a recent individual I contacted who has seen the film and enjoyed it! He is yet to promote it on his social media. The Holocaust Institutes have also supported the project by cross-checking the story to make sure the film is historically accurate. That has been a great asset for me during this process as I can always send through questions to them and receive an answer almost immediately.”

Why do you think that a Holocaust film is important to make in Australia? Why is this story/film important to you personally?

“After recently graduating high school, I noticed a lack of Holocaust education both in schools but also in the Perth community. That was my motivation to create this film alongside a UK screenwriter [Sean Ryan], to not only share the incredible true stories but also make society aware of events in today’s world that are comparable to ones 75 years ago, including but not limited to the influence of mass media and propaganda and the rise of antisemitism in Australia. A Holocaust film to this scale has never been done in Australia before, so it was vital for me to ensure I do it justice. The film itself comprises 8 individual stories (based on true events) compiled into one narrative.”

What are some of your favourite Holocaust themed films?

Schindler’s List is a no-brainer when it comes to Holocaust films and overall best films. A huge theme for me in Schindler’s List was the difference one individual can make (which is also seen in Fading Numbers). An idea that I explored in Fading Numbers is the belief in survival and the triumph of the human spirit. We see multiple characters in the film who believe that everything will be okay and reassure people around them to follow that belief.”

Was it difficult to get the correct production/costume design for the film? What about appropriate locations in WA?

“A huge challenge for all period piece films, especially living in Western Australia, is finding historically accurate locations. The production team took a lot of pre-production time to do tech scouts around Perth to find suitable locations. Two of our biggest locations included Fremantle and the Peel region. Soldier costumes were imported from Melbourne by a company (Warwicks) that houses military uniforms, and weapons were locally sourced by a theatrical armoury company (West OZ Theatrical Armoury). With the use of Nazi symbols and weaponry, we informed the WA police and surrounding councils in case of any public sighting and reports. The biggest challenge for myself and the cast and crew was the research element. The stories you would hear from survivor testimonies were so shocking and to listen to stories firsthand with a survivor in Perth was a different experience in itself. You couldn’t sleep at night as your mind was just filled with powerful images from films and documentaries.”

What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

“I loved making home videos on my parents’ iPhone, which was the foundation of my film career. A huge inspiration for me is making films that have a social and cultural impact on audiences, that will inspire and push them to take action. It’s great to see positive audience reactions from your film work and see them coming out of a cinema and sharing thematic ideas from the film to friends and family.”

I understand that you’re planning on having the film distributed in high schools?

“I have been in discussion with the education department and schools across Western Australia. I have already locked off a lot of private schools in WA to include the film in their curriculum. I am now aiming to talk with the federal education minister to distribute the film on a national scale in high schools across Australia.”

What’s next for you?

For the remaining months of 2021, I will be working as an Assistant Director on a war movie (Before Dawn) and producing two short films. I am also in the development stage of a feature-length film.

Keep up with Fading Numbers on its Facebook page.

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  1. Kate Nosworthy

    I had the honour of been part of this film and have said to many a people watch out for Aron Attiwell. He is someone we are going to be hearing a lot about. A consummate professional. Quietly dignified and an absoulte pleasure to work with. Good luck and best wishes for a stellar career.

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