Snowball Rolled South: A Documentary on Litvaks in South Africa

Snowball Rolled South: A Documentary on Litvaks in South Africa

Ieva Balsiūnaitė, one of the producers of the film The Snowball Rolled South about Litvaks in South Africa, gave an interview to Lithuanian public television on the eve of its Lithuanian premiere on Lithuanian TV. The film will be screened at the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, Naugarduko street no. 10/2, Vilnius, at 6:00 P.M. on January 17, 2019, to be followed by a discussion. The film contains Lithuanian and English passages and Lithuanian subtitles will be provided at this screening. The running time is 52 minutes. Entrance is free.


The majority of Jews living in South Africa come from Lithuania, and many of them are celebrated artists, businesspeople, public figures. A few have been Nobel prize winners and famous actors, even an Oscar nominee. Journalist, documentary maker and one of the makers of the film The Snowball Rolled South Ieva Balsiūnaitė told Lithuanian public television about this. Some of the film’s heroes were born in Lithuania, others in South Africa, so their connections with Lithuania are varied. The older generation still finds it hard to believe how all the warm and nice stories became the Holocaust, and the main characters speak about this excitedly, emotionally and frankly, Balsiūnaitė said.

You’d probably agree that few people in Lithuania know there are so many Litvaks in South Africa. How did this topic attract you and your colleagues and what made you make a documentary film about it?

We made the film as a team with Jonas Jakūnas and Sofija Korf, and we developed the concept with two journalists and documentarians, Viktorija Mickutė and Lukas Keraitis.

This topic first grabbed my interest a long time ago when I read an article about how almost all Jews living in South Africa have Lithuanian origins. That immediately raised a great many questions: why did so many people come from Lithuania specifically, and not from neighboring countries? What is the Litvak experience in the Republic of South Africa, and is there still some connection with Lithuania?

There were the initial, completely simple questions, but this was just the beginning. I remember I shared the idea with colleagues and we began to think we wanted to get to know the South African Litvak community, to learn more, because, as you’ve noted, very few people in Lithuania know about it, although it is an important part of identity and history.

Trailer of The Snowball Rolled South/Riedėjo gniūžtė į pietus from The Snowball Rolled South on Vimeo.

Full interview in Lithuanian here.