Winning hearts and awards
BOWLING GREEN, O.—“Bearing Witness: The Voices of Our Survivors,” a documentary film by Heather Elliott-Famularo of Bowling Green State University, had its world premiere on April 8 at the Palm Beach International Film Festival (PBIFF), where it was one of the two winners of the Audience Favorite Award for Best Documentary.
“Bearing Witness” has also recently been nominated for an Emmy Award through WGTE Public Media.
The film features the collective stories of six Toledo-area Holocaust survivors, as told to students, grades 7-12, from the three area synagogues’ Sunday Schools. The interviews were conducted through a collaborative process with the Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo.
The first PBIFF screening was sold out at the Frank Theatres in Delray Beach. It was attended by two of the survivors interviewed in Elliott-Famularo’s documentary. Larry Richman, an independent film reviewer, also attended the screening, and reviewed it on his website, www.larry411.com.
‘There are essentially two kinds of documentaries,” Richman wrote. “The first turns you on to a story you knew nothing about. The second documents an incident you've heard of—maybe even have read about or studied—but uncovers facts that are not only new to you but also put a completely different perspective on what you thought really happened. Call it a revelatory experience. This unforgettable film from director/producer/editor Heather Elliott-Famularo is a triumphant example of the latter.”
“To receive the Audience Favorite Award for Best Documentary, with the highest possible scores from every audience member, is evidently unprecedented in the 18-year history of the festival,” remarked Dr. Katerina Ruedi Ray, director of the School of Art at BGSU. “It is not only a testament to the power of its story, but also to the artistry of Professor Elliott-Famularo and the commitment of her executive producers Angel Vasquez and Hindea Markowicz.”
“I was stunned by the positive reaction to the film in Palm Beach,” Elliott-Famularo said. “I have dedicated the past three years of my life to this research, to these survivors, so seeing the film on a big screen in a sold-out theater made all the difference. It made me realize that our survivors are the world’s survivors. They may be living in Toledo, Ohio, but their stories can touch the hearts of people anywhere.
“It was also exceptional to have the world premier on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and to stand there and be honored with Rolf Hess and Philip Markowicz, two of our survivors in the film.
“My goals for the film are to educate and inspire,” she continued. “Ultimately, I see the ‘Bearing Witness’ project being used as a tool for teaching the Holocaust—and intolerance in general—to students in the classroom. An Emmy Award in this category would be a great support in finding funding to help achieve that goal.”
The documentary is up against two other programs in the “Information/Instructional Program/Series or Special” category through the Lower Great Lakes Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. The chapter’s 44th annual Emmy® Awards show will be held June 1 in downtown Cleveland.
“Bearing Witness” is Elliott-Famularo’s first feature film. She has already begun work on a documentary short, “The Last Torah,” which shares some of the historic and personal revelations revealed since the initial interviews. She plans to continue this important research and create more films on the topic.
“I selected segments from over 20 hours of interviews to create this 57-minute film. Some of the longer, more detailed stories were left out due to the time constraints of broadcast television. These are equally or more compelling as those that made it to the final cut of ‘Bearing Witness: The Voices of Our Survivors.’ I look forward to sharing all of the survivors’ incredible and inspiring stories through the continuation of the project,” Elliott-Famularo said.
Learn more about the six survivors and the production team by visiting the “Bearing Witness” website: www.bearingwitnesstoledo.com.