The Eva Stories Project By Mati Kochavi
The trouble with adopting new media to tell a serious story is an old story in itself. From the days of sound movies to comics, various media have been considered inappropriate for treating serious topics by default.
The Holocaust is a textbook example of one of these topics – yet, over time, it got both its black comedy films as well as graphic novels. But, how about the emerging social media such as Instagram, which many consider too superficial for providing the Holocaust with the aura of gravity and seriousness it deserves? Mati Kochavi has crossed this all-too-important transgenerational bridge with his Eva Stories project.
The Holocaust in the Digital Amber
Holocaust Remembrance Day is a perfect occasion to meditate on the nature of Time. For Mati Kochavi, an Israeli-American entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, this was a perfect occasion to showcase his project in which the present met the past, and the both imbued each other with a sort of timeless relevance. This is why he presented the Eva Stories on this very occasion, seeking to immortalize the story of Eva Heyman, a 13-year-old Hungarian Jewish girl who perished in the Holocaust, as part of an Instagram movie.
Now, those who are familiar with the format of Instagram might balk at the mention of “movie”, as this platform usually features various images, reels, and snippets, often of ephemeral nature. So, how do you tell a story for ages on the platform that is mostly concerned with the daily and the temporary?
Kochavi sourced the help of his daughter Maya whose assistance was instrumental in transforming Instagram into a platform for telling one of the most personal stories of the Holocaust ever. So, instead of going for a series of documentary posts, Kochavis made a bold step by creating a fictitious Instagram profile of a very real person of Eva Heyman.
How Do You Update the Story for Eternity?
With the Eva Stories project, Mati wanted to effectively update the memorial culture of the Holocaust for the generation of digital natives. Recognizing that the unstoppable march of time inevitably increases the historical and emotional distance from the Holocaust, Kochavi brought his technological and historical erudition to the project in which Eva’s life is documented as a series of Instagram posts. This was combined with a troupe of superb actors and a level of production rivaling that of a film studio.
Generation Z was enthralled with Eva, getting glimpses into her happy pre-incarceration life which got swept too soon by the winds of war. Everything relevant to Eva’s sad fate was carefully replicated, from the historical costumes and architecture to the grim dungeons of Auschwitz as her final resting place.
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This was not an easy ride for Mati though, as the Eva Stories initially met with skepticism regarding the appropriateness of using Instagram as a narrative vehicle to get across the message of the need for ongoing memorialization. Yet, as the thousands of viewers started to flock to Eva’s Instagram profile, even the naysayers in Israel and the rest of the globe had to admit that the project has succeeded with its prime objective – to reach the hearts and minds of all those who want to learn about and from the Holocaust, be it from a book, a film or, now, an Instagram account.
In 2020, Eva Stories received more formal recognition in the form of two Webby awards, often lauded as the Oscars of the Internet. In the same year, the project was launched on Snapchat, yet another social media platform. The unprecedented immediacy of the Eva Stories experience was recognized by the Webby jury that awarded it for the Best Use of Stories and the Best Campaigns on Social Media.
Somehow, even the names of these awards came together as a perfect expression of Mati’s vision for his Eva Stories project – to build an homage to the indestructible power of storytelling from the days of clay tablets to the computer ones.