Thursday, January 28, 2010

World Premiere: Review: The Colours of the Holocaust



Yesterday as part of Holocaust Memorial Day the Phoenix Art Museum hosted two screenings of The Colours of the Holocaust. The director of the program, introduced the film as an effort by Rax Rinnekangas, a non Jewish Finnish filmmaker. He first showed a short that introduced the filmmaker and his reasons for making the documentary. Rinnekangas was filmed outside in the snow on a blustery day in Finland. He said that there had been 2,000 Jews in Finland during the war but that eventually 8 other Jewish refugees there had died, and that it doesn’t matter if it was 8,000,000 or 8, it was too many.

The film looks at the longest hatred, anti-Semitism, the world has ever seen with a focus on the crucial moments of its fate – the birth of Aryanism in Europe and its shift to Nazism in the first half of the 20th century. It shows that Organized Evil – the Nazis’ utopist journey to an empire lasting a thousand years – did not occur in a black and white reality, like archive films have taught us, but rather in the same colourful world in which we live today.

Rinnekangas gets big points for marketing. His aim was that “art museums, different institutes and universities in different countries unify themselves into an international humanitarian chain on January 27, 2010 – for the realization of world peace.” Brilliant! Like our project, the chain concept works well here, too. Some of the international screenings took place in the following cities: Canada; FIFA-festival, Montreal ¤ Mexico: The Holocaust Museum, Mexíco City; Universidad de Guanajuato, Guanajuato; Instituto Cultural de Leon, Departamento de Cultura de Irapuato ¤ Spain: Museo de Bellas Artes, Bilbao ¤ Kosovo: The National Library, Pristina ¤ Hungary: The Holocaust Museum, Budapest; Little Theatre, Budapest ¤ Finland: Amos Anderson Art Museum Helsinki; The Aleksanteri Institute, Helsinki; Andorra Culture Complex, Helsinki; Arkadia International Bookshop, Helsinki; Didrichsen Museum of Art and Culture, Helsinki; Veturitalli –Salo Art Museum, Salo; The K.H. Renlund Museum, Kokkola; Saarijarvi Art Museum, Saarijarvi; Oulu Film Centre, Oulu; University of Lapland, Rovaniemi ¤

The film was shown through Rinnekangas’s eyes. He said has spent much time taking photographs of concentration camps over his life. He filmed Internet searches to his history questions to illustrate the development of Aryanism and eventually Nazism. At times it seemed very elementary – making a pot of coffee, his fat fingers pecking at the keyboard, the use of typical pictures and basic war footage.. and at other times it was incredibly touching to appreciate the efforts of a Christian(?) man who was simply haunted by the events of the Holocaust that preceeded his birth and wanted to do his part to stop anti-semetism and Holocaust denial. This, truly is the key to the film. Rax Rinnekangas is a mensch, and his film should be appreciated for his efforts.

The film was a low budget documentary with dark current day shots and black and white historic footage and includes subtitles. Although the filmmaker’s web site says the film is “addressed especially to new generations” unfortunately I just can’t see younger audiences watching this film unless it was in an educational setting where they were “encouraged” by a teacher or a grade.

It is not only critical for non Jewish filmmakers like Rinnekangas to make their version of this art to keep the conversation alive, but for others like us to make feature films purposefully designed to tell true stories in a more exciting fashion to keep the interest of young audiences. In stark contrast, we hope our upcoming film project, An Unbroken Chain, will not only have a successful national and international run in theaters but a huge shelf life in schools and universities due to our efforts to make a compelling educational tool by developing partnerships, and conducting research and conversations with educational organizations, teachers, and students.

image: Auchwitz, Poland 2000, copyright: Rax Rinnekangas

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Rap and the 65th Anniversary of Auschwitz: A renewal of our commitment to An Unbroken Chain

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Two stories caught my eye today:

In Poland, survivors mark Auschwitz anniversary


Esther Bejarano, Auschwitz Survivor, Teams Up With German Rap Group

It’s been 65 years since the day the Red Army liberated the camp in 1945, and is part of worldwide events on International Holocaust Remembrance Day - established by the United Nations in 2005 as a global day of commemoration. As you may know, my friend and our film subject, 89 year old Henry spent time in Auschwitz, as well as 4 other concentration camps. (Henry himself wasn’t liberated until a few months later in April.)

The other story from the Huffington Post also ties music into the Holocaust. Henry and his brother, who’s 95 years young, who are from Berlin originally, are musically gifted. In fact, likely one of the reasons they survived the Holocaust includes the fact that they were able to rehearse for the choir in Terenstadt, the first camp they went to, which gave them an escape from the dreary conditions and daily reality. Today, the Associated Press reported that Berlin resident, 85 year old Survivor Esther Bejarano, is teaming up with a hip hop group, Microphone Mafia, to educate German youths. Great quote in the piece: “It’s a clash of everything: age, culture, and style,” she laughed.

Speaking of music, yesterday I talked to a composer, Ronen who told me that his friend, Kat had heard about our feature film, An Unbroken Chain, and sent her resume, so he was following up, too. We are starting to receive crew inquiries from our listing in Below the Line, a resource for the entertainment industry. Interesting, I had missed Kat’s resume, even though she is currently based in Berlin, which would be a huge asset to our project. The reason is that we received so many email inquiries that we haven’t had time to go through them all yet. A few of them state in the subject line what they do professionally, but many others just give their name in the subject and in the body of the email, it says that their resume is attached. Just a word of advice to crew or anyone for that matter who is emailing about a project – make it as easy as possible for people to know what you offer. If you want, you might resend with your information in the subject line and cut and paste your resume in the email body.

We are really excited by the huge response to our project’s listing and continue to build our team for the film. Our big need today is to find a name director for the project who can give us more credibility. Any ideas?

Note: Photo of Esther Bejarano. Photo: O. Wolters/ccphoto.de
This image was taken or made by Oliver Wolters. Description: Esther Béjarano during a demonstration in Berlin-Köpenick against the right wing extremist party NPD. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. (This is our blog's first use of a Creative Commons visual. Thank you Oliver for sharing this great photo!)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Repair the World: Israel Helps Haiti



"Will the world notice the humanitarian relief Israel has extended to Haiti? Will it make a difference in the way the world views Israel?

Many countries and world leaders have accused Israel of responding disproportionately to aggression from Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. However, it is time that the world press and media speak of another disproportionate response from Israel.

The terrible disastrous earthquake in Haiti has generated responses from many nations. The US has sent supplies and personnel, Britain sent 64 firemen and 8 volunteers, France sent troops for Search and Rescue. Many large and wealthy nations of the world sent money.

Israel, a nation of 7.5 million people has sent a team of 250 people that include Medical personnel and will establish the largest field hospital in Haiti, treating up to 5000 people a day,an experienced Search and Rescue team and medical supplies. As in previous earthquake disasters, such as in Gujarat India in 2001 and in Turkey , in the bombings in Kenya , Israel has been one of the most generous givers of aid and assistance." (From an email going around this week.)

Just before a 6.1-magnitude aftershock rocked Haiti on Wednesday (Jan. 20), Israeli emergency services treated two children rescued by a team from the New York City fire and police department on Tuesday night.

The children, an 8-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, were taken to the Israeli field hospital in Port-au-Prince, where Israelis have treated 367 victims. Israel has provided aid and supplies to Haiti since arriving a few days after an earthquake caused a massive humanitarian crisis on the island nation Jan. 12.

In addition to Israeli and Jewish medical and search-and-rescue teams operating in Haiti, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman initiated proceedings to send a delegation of 10 Israeli police officers to Haiti to assist the United Nations police force there.

Additionally, a team from the Israeli emergency medicine and ambulance service, Magen David Adom, has now joined the Red Cross field hospital set up in the courtyard of Port-au-Prince’s University Hospital. Among other services, the Magen David Adom team will provide psychological and social services to earthquake victims.


The Israeli rescue team has been working with other delegations from Nicaragua, Uruguay, Venezuela and Russia. Nine U.S. volunteers from Los Angeles have joined the Israeli rescue and medical delegations.

The IDF’s team set up the advanced field hospital adjacent to Port-au-Prince’s soccer stadium. So far Israeli medics there have carried out 25 life-saving surgeries and three births—one of them a premature baby. The hospital is equipped to help as many as 500 patients per day.

Following is a partial list of Jewish groups that have set up relief funds and are collecting donations to be sent to Haiti:

American Jewish Committee (AJC) in partnership with IsraAID
To donate to AJC’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, click here
Contact: haitifund@ajc.org
Web site: http://www.ajc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=ijITI2PHKoG&b=2818295&content_id={D90DEA69-E8D3-4593-A307-9E838F7F8EDB}¬oc=1

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC)
To donate to the JDC’s Haiti Earthquake Relief program, click here
Contact: Beth Weinstein, Tel.: 212-885-0820, E-mail: beth.weinstein@jdcny.org
Web site: http://www.jdc.org/about-jdc/crisis-response.aspx?id=4028

American Jewish World Service (AJWS)
To donate to AJWS’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, click here
Web site: http://ajws.org/who_we_are/news/haiti_emergency.html

World Jewish Relief (WJR)
To donate to WJR’s Haiti Earthquake Emergency Appeal, click here
Web site: http://www.wjr.org.uk/appeals/646-Haiti-Emergency-Earthquake-appeal

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Survivor Celebrating 89 years, subject of feature film: An Unbroken Chain



This month, Holocaust Survivor, Henry Oertelt turns 89, but he’s still just a kid to his big brother Kurt, age 95.




Why another Holocaust flick? Abraham Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League  calls 2009 arguably the worst year for anti-Semitism in his tenure with the organization.


Last month, the Auschwitz sign was stolen. One man who was there wants to tell his story in order to educate people about acceptance. Minnesota resident, Holocaust Survivor and author, Henry Oertelt was born almost 89 years ago, January 13,  in Berlin, Germany. His book, An Unbroken Chain: My Journey Through the Nazi Holocaust, tells of 18 life saving events and circumstances that led to his survival and that of his 95 year old brother, Kurt’s from 5 concentration camps, including Auschwitz.


We are making an exciting action film that will entice the next generation. An Unbroken Chain will be designed from the start as a tool for educators as well as a national theatrical release.


Today teachers are using documentaries from the Shoah Foundation, as well as Life in a Jar: The Irene Sendler Story, Paper Clips and older films like the 1969 based The Wave and the Diary of Anne Frank.  However, one teacher commented that films like The Wave “seem very outdated for the young and twittered.”


We are consulting with experts like Facing History: Facing Ourselves and educators to insure that our film will be a lasting tool for Holocaust education in schools. The budget of our project? $6,000,000.00.


We started a 501(c)(3) education fund, Six Million for Six Million, for the film project that will provide tax deductions to donors.  We have estimated the film and marketing budget to be six million dollars. We thought, if six million people donate one dollar each, we can make this film.  Now we have raised one third of the funds from our partners at MarVista Entertainment who will executive produce and distribute this film. Karben Publishing, the book’s publisher, will carry the film and distribute it to educators all over the world.


The campaign against hate doesn’t stop with anti-semetism. The ADL is also working with MTV on a new project called “A Thin Line” which is aimed to curb the spread of abuse occurring via cyberbullying, text messaging and other digital mediums. Cyberbullying is a growing problem that affects almost half of all U.S. teens.


Henry's lecture and book, An Unbroken Chain, have amazed audiences for 40 years. Help honor Henry's 89th birthday on January 13 and spread the word. Consider donating a dollar or more at http://6mfor6m.org.






(Henry is pictured with Inge, his wife of 63 years)