Adele’s Wish tracks return of seized Gustav Klimt paintings

When local director Terrence Turner learned that his wife’s great-aunt, Maria Altmann, was planning to sue the Austrian government for the return of five Gustav Klimt paintings seized by the Nazis during the Second World War, his first thought was to stay out of it.

“I got the distinct feeling that it might not be something the family really wanted to bring attention to, just because the older generations are usually not that interested in reliving wartime kinds of things,” Turner said by phone while on holiday in Turkey.

But when Altmann’s case made it to a U.S. federal district court under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, Turner decided it was time to pull out the camera. The resulting film, Adele’s Wish, tracks the nonagenarian’s fight for the return of the valuable artwork. Her astonishing triumph includes an art sale that netted Altmann and her heirs (which didn’t include Turner or his wife) more than US$300 million.

“You look at someone like Maria, and she had the courage to go after these guys and say, ”˜Look, you know, I don’t really care about the money.”¦I’m not going to be around forever. But if these were wrongly taken from my family, then they should be returned, simple as that,’ ” Turner said.

Adele’s Wish will have its North American premiere at the Ridge Theatre (3131 Arbutus Street) at a fundraiser for the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival Society and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre on Wednesday (December 3) at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20, and are available at