After it’s sold out January 26 special screening at the Coolidge Corner Theater, the documentary film Soul Witness, The Brookline Holocaust Witness Project will be shown again at the theater on April 19. The film is based on approximately 80 hours of video interviews conducted between 1990 and 1996 of local Brookline residents who witnessed the Holocaust.
Soul Witness was written, directed and produced by R. Harvey Bravman. Bravman founded BrooklineHub.com in 1996 and the Brookline Youth Awards in 2011.
Dr. Lloyd Gellineau, Chief Diversity Officer of the Town of Brookline, introduced Bravman to the interviews in 2014.
According to Gellineau, the interview tapes had been sitting in a metal closet for nearly a quarter of a century.
While the screenings of this 65-minute version of the film are taking place in 2017, it has been almost 30 years in the making. In the late 1980s, two Brookline residents, Holocaust survivor Regina Barshak and Leon Satenstein, who was present at the liberation of the concentration camps during World War II, worked to create a living memorial of the Holocaust by interviewing local witnesses.
Lawrence L. Langer, Professor of English Emeritus at Simmons College, recognized by many as the world’s foremost authority on Holocaust testimonies, conducted about 80 percent of the interviews and supervised the remainder. Gellineau’s predecessor, Stephen Bressler, then Brookline’s director of human relations-youth resources, played a pivotal role in the interview project.
The original Holocaust Memorial Committee, which has since been resurrected for the purpose of the film, identified and interviewed 39 survivors. The film features roughly 30 of them.
The January screening sold out all 432 seats in Coolidge’s main playhouse shortly after the trailer was released.
The documentary is intended for a general audience with an advisory for children under 13.
As with the January screening, the April 19 special screening event will include a video tribute to Regina Barshak and Leon Satenstein. Following the film, Facing History and Ourselves will moderate a question and answer period with Bravman, Gellineau and family members of those who appear in the film.
The event is hosted by Brookline Hub, Inc. and principal sponsors for the event are The Town of Brookline, Facing History and Ourselves, the Brookline Community Foundation and the Coolidge Corner Theater. Over 40 local businesses, individuals and non-profits have so far stepped forward to help finally unearth these lost interviews.