“What she represents is everything that has to be protected.” – Diane von Furstenberg
She’s celebrating her 133rd birthday on October 28. She’s the Mother of Exiles, one of America’s most iconic symbols, and an enduring beacon of hope to the world’s “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”. She’s a colossus who stands 305 feet proud and tall. She’s the most photographed statue in the world, visited by over four million people annually. You know the Statue of Liberty, but do you know her story?
In the new HBO documentary Liberty: Mother of Exiles (view official film trailer above), award-winning directors Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbara “reveal the statue’s unexpected history”, following legendary fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, a Belgian immigrant, daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and “godmother” of the new Statue of Liberty Museum, “in her quest to discover how sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s dream became a reality and what the statue has meant to generations of people worldwide.”
Film synopsis via HBO, “Like most Americans, Lady Liberty has its own immigrant story, and over the course of the film, von Furstenberg, who came to the U.S. from Belgium, reveals how intimately connected her background is with the statue. Her admiration for Lady Liberty began with her mother, who gave birth to Diane after surviving the Auschwitz labor camps and often called her daughter her ‘torch of freedom.’ The fashion icon has long admired the 305-foot, toga-wearing statue’s strength and femininity and recalls first seeing Lady Liberty when she arrived in New York by boat in the 1970s.
“The film follows von Furstenberg on her journey towards discovery, reading French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s diaries, and traveling to France to meet with descendants of Édouard de Laboulaye, who inspired Bartholdi to build the statue, and Gustave Eiffel, who designed its metal framework.
“The ways in which the statue’s existence affects Americans is palpable through encounters with dozens of people, like those von Furstenberg spoke to, who share a connection to the colossal figure. From street artists to factory workers, the film’s robust cast of characters include a French metal artisan who came to America to work on the restoration of the statue in the 1980s and never left, workers in China who make the souvenir statues found in gift shops all over the world, a Russian graffiti artist whose street art prominently features the statue, and families who lived on the island for years until their homes were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy – all underscoring von Furstenberg’s notion that Lady Liberty ‘belongs to everyone,’ as well as Bartholdi’s own idea that the statue should represent the unity of [hu]mankind.”