Soul Witness, The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project will screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre at 7 pm in observance of International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 25. The work-in-progress documentary film sold out the Coolidge twice in 2017. Soul Witness is based on over 80 hours of holocaust testimonies of mostly Brookline survivors, conducted by world-renowned testimony expert Lawrence Langer, that were locked away in a metal storage unit for over 20 years.
A short video will also screen that evening featuring recent interview footage conducted by Soul Witness Producer/Director, R. Harvey Bravman and shot by Producer/Editor Rob Kirwan, as they work to complete the film. In December, Bravman interviewed Lawrence Langer and others connected to the original interview project, as well as family members of those who appear in Soul Witness. Interviews for the film and soulwitness.org will continue through 2018.
In the late 1980’s, Leon Satenstein, who was a member of President John F. Kennedy’s administration, spearheaded an effort to create a living memorial of the Holocaust through testimony interviews. Key participants in that effort included Regina Barshak, who was a survivor and Brookline resident, as well as Stephen Bressler, Brookline’s Human Relations Director at the time the interviews were conducted. Brookline’s Chief Diversity Officer, Dr. Lloyd Gellineau, discovered the interview tapes in a metal storage unit and recruited Bravman to produce the documentary.
After each interview was conducted, a copy was sent to the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University for research. But unfortunately, Brookline’s copies of the Holocaust testimonies were never used to create a living memorial. The interviews have not been shared with the public for over 20 years. The goal of Soul Witness is to finally fulfill the wishes of those who participated in the project by sharing their voices with the public.
“I completely immersed myself in the footage,” Bravman explained the process of making the film. “Lawrence Langer conducted the most responsible interviews I’ve ever seen; the witnesses were comfortable with him because of his compassion and his knowledge of the subject matter. For the film, I tried to focus on just what the witnesses saw with their own eyes and what I felt they came to say. They wanted us to know that their experiences still affected them, that they still loved the ones they lost, and they never stopped thinking of them and don’t know why they’re only ones who made it out alive”.
Facing History and Ourselves recently provided the film’s producers with a letter of support, written by its vice president and chief programming officer, Marc Skvirsky, and Tracy O’Brien, director of library services. The letter included this statement, “The varies survivor voices in this film effectively and poignantly illustrate the impossible dilemmas faced by individuals under Nazi terror, as well as the lifelong impact of those experiences on the survivors themselves. This film is important both for the stories that survivors share, but also for the way their voices are presented. The structure and tone of the film “humanize” these individuals who might otherwise be perceived simply as victims.”
Brookline Community Foundation Executive Director, Jenny Amory, a supporter of the project said: “We are very moved by Harvey Bravman’s work and see this as an incredibly important film.”
The evening will include a Q&A moderated by Adam Strom of Re-Imagining Migration. Panelists include R. Harvey Bravman, Producer/Director of Soul Witness, Margot Strom, Founder of Facing History and Ourselves and Janet Stein, President of Generations After.
The event is founded and hosted by Brookline Hub, Inc. Supporters of the film include Facing History and Ourselves, Brookline Community Foundation, Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University, Hamilton Company Charitable Foundation, Re-Imagining Migration and the Town of Brookline.
Contributions to help Bravman complete the project can be made online or mailed to Brookline Hub.
Tickets for the January 25 screening of Soul Witness are on sale now at the Coolidge.