ABOUT THE FILM

ABOUT THE FILM

MAN ON THE BUS follows one woman’s journey through a series of shocking revelations about her family history. As psychologist and filmmaker Eve Ash investigates her parents’ story, she uncovers secrets that upend her life.

Gripping interviews, home movies and archival footage plant notes of suspicion and reveal clues — names in a street directory; old 8mm films; mention of a man on a bus in an old recording. A bombshell follows and Eve’s image of her mother, Martha, a Polish survivor of the Holocaust, is blown apart. 

Martha and Feliks, the man she married towards the end of the war, both lost their entire families in the Holocaust, including their spouses. Feliks had been in the Janowska Concentration Camp death brigade, daily working at the burning of bodies to conceal evidence of mass graves, until he and a small group of fellow prisoners made a heroic escape from the camp after killing their guards. Feliks and Martha emigrated together to Melbourne in 1949, and Feliks became a gentle and loving father, dedicated to the family business. Eve grew up in a prototypical postwar suburb, with all the comforts any child could want, and yet, somehow, she always felt apart from her family in unexplained ways. She always felt “different”. 

After their parents died, Eve and her older sister, Helen, traveled to the Ukraine to uncover details of the horrific pogroms that wiped out their family. Eve had further talks with friends and family in Europe, the USA, and in Australia to find out more about her parents. Martha emerges as a talented artist and devoted wife and mother, but also a flamboyant and flirtatious woman who was bored by suburban life and often said ‘some secrets you must never tell anyone’. Having narrowly escaped execution by the Nazis and losing her mother and husband in horrific circumstances, she made a new life in Melbourne that featured a whirlwind of parties and gaiety, but always hid a deep dark secret: her love affair over fifteen years with a man she met on a bus. 

For Eve, the truth came out in a stunning way. In January 2008, she received an email from a stranger who claimed to be her sister. When they met, Eve was startled by how much the stranger looked like her. A DNA test confirmed that they were, indeed, half-sisters. This woman’s father was a man named ‘Dixie’ who Eve had known as a child. And, in fact, he was the mysterious man on the bus that Eve had spotted in Martha’s home movies. Was Eve the product of an affair that Martha had with him? Following this revelation, Eve set out to find Dixie, who was working full-time in Melbourne as a land surveyor at the age of 83. He is a defiant non-conformist who had ten children with six different women, and Eve strives to make sense of this piece of her story. In doing so, Eve finally manages to connect the dots of her life, from the Holocaust atrocities to her mixed emotions about her fathers. She gets to the truth of her own identity, resolving the feelings of “differentness” that have always stalked her, and achieves closure.


Timeline

WAR HORRORS – “We lost everyone”
Parents, siblings, cousins and spouses… all were murdered. Feliks was in a death camp, Martha in hiding.


NEW LIFE – “We went to Australia to be as far away as possible”
Martha and Feliks married and had Helen.


A SECRET BEGINS – “Nobody questioned who was my father”
Eve was born two years after arriving in Melbourne.


SECRET UNRAVELS – “He named streets after us”
I remembered her words and that was my biggest clue.


Unique Sources

Proud to Live (1980)
A 45 minute documentary produced by Bob Weis documenting eye-witness accounts from holocaust survivors.

The Stephen Spielberg Film & Video Archive
We have been granted permission to use footage from the collection of unique films documenting the Holocaust.

The Adolf Eichmann Trial (1961)
Eve’s father, Feliks, was part of a death camp breakout revealed in the testimonial at the Eichmann Trial. Original film shows the story being told first hand by Feliks’ friend and co-escapee, Dr Leon Wells.

Original 8mm film (1950s-1970s)
Eve’s mother, Martha, recorded many events on 8mm film including post-war Australia, overseas travel, family holidays and parties.

Historical Documents and Letters
Permits, letters and other documents saved from the Holocaust and post-war period.

Original Interviews with Holocaust Survivors, Family Members and Friends
Interviews and location filming in USA, Australia, Belgium, France and Ukraine. Eye-witness accounts of the holocaust and revelations of family secrets.


Key Characters

martha

MARTHA ASH
Beautiful, flirtatious and damaged … a loving wife and mother with a huge secret.
After her escape from the Holocaust she travels with her husband and daughter to begin a new life in Australia. But it will be a double life. Her success as an artist, her big social life and her love of making home movies is well known. But Martha, the new immigrant, meets a man on a Melbourne bus and begins a secret affair. The biggest secret of all unravels long after her death.

feliks

FELIKS ASH
Feliks married Martha after an extraordinary escape from a concentration camp.
He is one of the big heroes of the holocaust, one of the few death camp inmates who managed to escape and survive against incredible odds. After the war Feliks takes his new family to Australia where he dedicates himself to running a business. He appears to be the patriarch of a regular suburban family but does Feliks know about his wife’s secret life?

eve-ash-baby

EVE ASH
Eve felt something was not quite right about her family … and began digging.
Eve is Feliks and Martha’s second daughter, a psychologist and filmmaker. All her life she’s felt something is not quite right about her family relationships. Her suspicions grow and after her mother’s death Eve begins an investigation, following a trail of strange clues that finally lead her to the man who was on a bus in 1949. Is it possible this man could be Eve’s real father?

dixie

RONALD ‘DIXIE’ LEE
Who is the mysterious man on the bus? Why did he name streets Martha and Eve?
The man on the bus turns out to be a surveyor from Tasmania who has a string of lovers, wives and children. At the time of his affair with Martha, Dixie went through two marriages, and later ended up living in a ‘ménage a trois’ on a yacht. But when Dixie, now well into his 80s, is finally confronted by Eve, how will he react?


Production Team

Eve Ash, Executive Producer, Director, Writer
Eve co-produced, co-directed and starred in Undercurrent, true crime TV series x 6 eps Channel 7, 2019. Eve, a psychologist and author, founded Seven Dimensions, and produced over 700 short films, documentaries and TV episodes, winning over 160 international awards. These include Finding My Magic multi-award winning cartoon series (x 16 eps) featuring Olympian Cathy Freeman on children’s rights (NITV/SBS), Hello Australia (x 10eps) for SBS, a TV series on relationships (x 13 eps, Channel 4, UK) and 150 comedy business shorts in USA. She developed the 3-hour mini-series STARK with Ben Elton (ABC/BBC). Her original documentary on Sue Neill-Fraser’s wrongful conviction, Shadow of Doubt, received an AACTA nomination for best feature documentary 2013. Her books Rewrite Your Life! and Rewrite Your Relationships! were published by Penguin Books. Eve is a ‘Telstra Businesswoman of the Year’ and international public speaker.

James Carr, Editor, Writer
James is a natural at creating powerful moments using simple elements, and has a strength for creating story. His credits include Cutting Edge Communication x 150 episodes (comedy business series), The Great Divide (documentary on ISIL), Exploring Malaysia for National Geographic and Nomad Chef for Discovery Channel as well as a range of high end advertising films.

Cezary Skubiszewski, Composer
Born in Poland, Cezary is a leading Australian film composer who has won numerous awards for his powerful scores. He has received international acclaim for his work on documentaries, mini-series and major feature films including Red Dog True Blue, Two Hands, Serangoon Road, The SapphiresThe Broken ShoreDeath Defying Acts, Night and Picnic at Hanging Rock TV series. Cezary’s composing creates powerful emotions using a combination of high technology, traditional instruments and the rich tones of a grand piano.

Tim Smart, Cinematographer
Tim Smart’s career spans forty years in television, cinema and advertising. Producer and Director of documentaries, features and specials. Tim co-produced, co-directed and did cinematography for Undercurrent, true crime TV series x 6 eps Channel 7, 2019. Tim was producer, director and  cinematographer for The Maltese Connection (x 6), Co-Producer/Director Hoges TV Specials for Nine; Co-Producer/Supervising Cinematographer The Subjects (feature); cinematography on feature films including Mad Max, Charlie & Boots, Cliffy, Strange Bedfellows and Director/Cinematographer of 200+ television commercials.

Cesar Salmeron, Cinematographer
Cesar has captured compelling images for a range of projects including documentaries for National Geographic, feature documentaries for International Film Festivals and blue chip television series for a range of broadcasters. He was DOP on Shadow of Doubt, cinematographer on Undercurrent TV series (x 6 eps) and has directed and shot many episodes of Grand Designs Australia. He has a unique eye for beauty from the cinematic scale to tiny details and is able to photograph faces in a way that reveals the feelings going on beneath the surface.

Andrew McGrath, Sound Mixer
Andrew, owner Soundwaves, award-winning sound post facility, has worked on a vast array of Australian and international feature films, documentaries, and television productions. Titles include Mary & Max, Snowtown, Nolan – The Man and the Myth, Rock‘n’Roll Nerd, and television series Romper Stomper. His roles include Sound Post Supervisor, Re-recording Mixer, Sound Designer, ADR Engineer, and Sound Editor, and he has won several top sound awards from AFI/ACCTA and Australian Screen Sound Guild Awards.

Shaun Miller Executive Producer, Legals
Shaun has specialised in film and entertainment law for two decades. He has held board positions, volunteers for Prahran Legal Service and worked extensively in film distribution. Shaun acted as the lawyer on Adam Elliot’s film “Harvie Krumpet”, which won the Oscar for best short animated film in 2004. He has worked on major Australian productions as an Executive Producer and Lawyer, most recently Undercurrent for Channel 7. He is known for Mary and Max, Canopy, Drown, The Faceless Man and countless more.

Nicola Swift, Series Producer, Writer
Nic crafted this story into 3 x 1 hour TV episodes. She was Executive Producer for the ABC Factual Department on a range of documentaries covering topics such as drug addiction, domestic abuse and social media shaming. Her credits as a writer and documentary producer include M.A.D. World (8 x 1 hours on the Cold War), Race of Life (12 x 30 mins on the Theory of Evolution) and Behind the Front Door (12 x 1 hour on extraordinary stories of ordinary people). She was an executive producer with Channel Nine and a senior producer for ITV Studios.