filmmaker as documentarian above all wishes to tell a
meaningful story. To be a documentary, a film must be
presented in an objective fashion and must not be
editorialized, nor must it stray into fiction. To create such
a meaningful work, the filmmaker must have a passion to tell an important
story, usually about an event that occurred at some time in the
times the filmmaker travels to a foreign location where the event took place. This event,
of course, may have been a joyous one, though most often not.
may tell about acts of bravery, or of unsung heroes who might
inspire us or at minimum command our respect and admiration.
Documentaries about Jewish history all to often tell stories
of tragic times, of loss of a person, a community, or of a
possible, the filmmaker goes back to the location most closely
associated with the event of interest. He or she may choose to
interview natives of the town or country and might ask them
questions about an event in the past. Sometimes they are
confronted with the realities of the past. As viewers and
interested parties, we are compelled listen and see and
perhaps reconsider what occurred during such times as World War II and
the Holocaust, the story being told so many decades after-the-fact.
We are forced as the viewer to somehow reconcile
what we see and hear in the documentary with what we think we know
or what we've experienced.
There were many heroes who
have been and should be recognized in a Jewish documentary,
e.g. those who saved many Jews during the Holocaust, such as Oskar Schindler and Walter Suskind, to mention just two. We
must surely consider as heroes the troops who liberated those
trapped within the many Nazi concentration camps, and we must
also consider heroes the parents who sacrificed themselves so
that their children might live. There were also non-Jews,
"righteous gentiles," who heroically
sheltered Jews during the Holocaust, at their own peril, in
order to help them avoid capture--perhaps they even helped
many Jews escape to a safer land. There were also the many brave souls who took in
Jewish children as their own so they would not face an early
death, and then raised them as their own. Lastly, there are
countless others who met an untimely death, whose stories will
never be told, or whose stories are yet waiting to be told by
a passionate filmmaker.
There have also been many
documentaries made about the destruction of entire Jewish
communities in Europe during the Holocaust, of the loss
of so many beloved family members at the hands of the Nazis and their
collaborators. Many survivors and their families go back to
Eastern Europe decades later to the country of their birth, to
try to make sense of the whatever occurred, however
incomprehensible. We see them experience the
gamut of emotions, attempting to reconcile the events of their
past with who they are and how they think about such events
today. For some, this reconciliation can
only occur through the extraordinary effort of writing an
autobiographical book or making a documentary film, as this
for them is the only
way that they can tell truly tell their story, unable to discuss
openly such unspeakable events. It is such a film that appeals
to the power of our memory, that we should and must never
forget the horrors of the past.
You will no doubt find many
of the nearly fifty documentaries created by
Tomek Wisniewski of Bialystok,
Poland interesting. Many of his short films are about Jewish
life in Poland that was once and, of course, is no more.
The Jewish documentary most
often thematically deals with the many aspects and experiences
of Jewish life within the Diaspora, and attempts to honor and
preserve these significant events that have become indelibly
etched within our collective Jewish consciousness. It is for
this reason that the Museum has created "The Screening Room."
The Museum is quite honored to be able to share with you short
previews of the films of such documentarians, in the hope that
you will want to see the film in its entirety, and when you
do, consider what the filmmaker is trying to say, and why he or
she felt it was so important to make their film. Lastly,
the Museum urges you to support the Jewish documentarian and
the work they do in whatever way you can.
Instructions for Viewing: Simply
click on either the title of the film below to arrive at the desired webpage. The time
necessary to download any page that contains a video clip will
vary, depending on the type of connection you have, e.g.
dial-up, DSL, cable modem, etc, dial-up being the slowest. If
a clip is taking too long to download try clicking on "pause."
The video will continue to download in the background and will
be temporarily stored on your computer. Then click on "play,"
and you should be able be see the video clip. The length of
the clip is listed beneath the title below and should give you
an idea of relative download time. A link is occasionally
provided to the film website, if there is one, so that you can
learn more about the author of this work, perhaps find a
faster or more downloads of video previews of their films. The
Museum has no financial interest in any of these films, and
simply wishes to encourage and support the documentarian of
important Jewish themes in Jewish history.
Feel free to write to the
postmaster@museumoffamilyhistory if you have seen any of
these films, and would like to make a comment about them. Your
remarks will probably be posted in a Comments page to be
created in the near future. Just enter "Screening Room" in the
Subject field of your e-mail.