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The Screening Room
Documenting the Past

The filmmaker as documentarian above all wishes to tell a meaningful story. To be considered 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 past.

Often 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. Their film 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 too often tell stories of tragic times, of loss of a person, community, or culture.

If 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 a particular 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 to 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 may have occurred, however incomprehensible. We may 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 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 nearly three-dozen films painstakingly created by 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 Museum at 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.



Secret Courage: The Walter Suskind Story

clip duration (2 mins, 25 secs)



The Legacy of Jedwabne

clip duration (3 mins, 59 secs)


Poland, Russia

Saved by Deportation: An Unknown Odyssey of Polish Jews

clip duration (5 mins, 56 secs)

4. Slovakia, Ukraine More Precious than Pearls
clip duration (5 mins, 08 secs)
5. Eastern Europe At the Crossroads: Jewish Life in Eastern Europe Today
clip duration (1 min, 57 secs)
6. Ukraine The Last Klezmer: Leopold Kozlowski, His Life and Music
clip duration (3 mins, 25 secs)
7. Ukraine Carpati: 50 Miles, 50 Years
clip duration (4 mins, 15 secs)
8. Poland Klezmer on Fish Street
clip duration (3 mins, 04 secs)
9. Siberia L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin
clip duration (3 mins, 05 secs)
10. United States Yiddish Theater: A Love Story
clip duration (2 mins, 02 secs)
11. Netherlands Steal a Pencil for Me
clip duration (2 mins, 07 secs)
12. United States Where Neon Goes to Die
clip duration (4 mins, 40 secs)
13. Hungary,
Czechoslovakia, Ukraine
A Man From Munkács
clip duration (3 mins, 40 secs)
14. Lithuania, Poland The World Was Ours

clip duration (6 mins, 26 secs)
15. Latvia, Lithuania The Litvak Connection
clip duration (3 mins, 53 secs)
16. Poland Return to Ozarow
clip duration (3 mins, 48 secs)
17. Germany L' affaire Grynszpan
clip duration (5 mins, 49 secs)
18. Italy The Tree of Life
clip duration  (2 mins, 36 secs)
19. Belarus, Poland Horodok: A Shtetl's Story 1920-1945
clip duration (6 mins, 28 secs)
20. Italy Italy and the Holocaust: The Hidden Story
clip duration (2 mins, 53 secs)
21. United States A Great Day on Eldridge Street
clip duration (2 mins, 04 secs)
22. Poland The Peretzniks (Perecowicze)
clip duration (3 mins, 51 secs)
23. United States Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg
clip duration (2 mins, 08 secs)
24. Poland The Warsaw Ghetto
clip duration ( 2 mins, 12 secs)
25. United States The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg
clip duration (2 mins, 17 secs)
26. Poland Paint What You Remember
clip duration (3 mins, 47 secs)
27. Poland Tell Me Why
clip duration (12 mins, 07 secs)
28. Poland The Last Witness
clip duration (13 mins, 27 secs)
29. United States Four Seasons Lodge
clip duration (2 mins, 30 secs)
30. Ukraine Glimpses of Yiddish Czernowitz
clip duration (2 mins, 23 secs)
31. Romania, Israel Martin: The Story of Dr. Martin Kieselstein
clip duration (10 mins, 09 secs)
32. United States Refuge: Stories of the Selfhelp Home
clip duration (2 mins, 14 secs)
33. United States Rosenwald
clip duration (2 mins, 35 secs)
34. United States Above and Beyond
clip duration (1 min, 14 secs)
35. United States On the Map
clip duration (2 mins, 19 secs)







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