07 August 2009

Latvia: 'Rumbula's Echo' documentary

Mitch Lieber of Chicago is the driving force behind a website devoted to the Jews of Latvia as well as Holocaust resources and education. Rumbula.org allso became the impetus for a special documentary.

Tracing the Tribe has written about Mitch previously for the Jerusalem Post about how he found his family after several generations of his family searched for relatives left behind and found no one. A few minutes on JewishGen's Family Finder eventually resulted in an email from a cousin now in Israel.

Read Tracing the Tribe's previous posts on Rumbula and Mitch's efforts to commemorate and educate: here (December 2006) and here (November 2007).

In August 2008, we met again in Chicago and Mitch told me about his upcoming project, with its own website, RumbulasEcho.org. The central story is the Shoah in Latvia.

Mitch just provided an update on the film project.

Sheila Curran Bernard has joined as a consultant. Among her credits, she wrote and directed two episodes of the acclaimed historical documentary PBS series, "Eye on the Prize," one received a national Emmy; involved in more than 40-plus hours of documentary film; author, "Documentary Storytelling;" co-author, "Archival Storytelling." Bernard is on the SUNY-Albany faculty.

Rich Pooler is the field sound recordist. His rural Africa work was heard on the Kartemquin Films documentary, "Milking the Rhino," on PBS' Independent Lens in April. For 17 years, his sound has been heard on documentaries on PBS' FrontLine, POV, Nova, HBO and Oprah. He recorded sound on "Out of Faith," about a Skokie Holocaust survivor and her grandchildren. He joins director of photography Sid Lubitsch and Mitch as core crew. In each country where filming will take place, two-to-three local crew will be added.

Principal photography will begin August 25 in Riga, when its 104-year-old recently restored synagogue will again begin holding services. On August 26-27, a rededication ceremony, reception, conference and a concert. These events will be filmed. Other filming will include today's modern community, Jewish institutions and Holocaust memorials. The footage will wrap up a 110-year story of Jews in Latvia. Interviews with Holocaust survivors will also be filmed.

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany has awarded $40,000 for production, the first time it has supported documentary film. Other donors include the International Holocaust Task Force (a U.S. foundation) which granted $36,000, family foundations and individuals in supporting the film. Currently, $105,000 has been raised.

The project is raising another $39,000 to meet the $144,000 minimum production budget, and must raise $9,000 by August 20 towards the $19,000 needed for the Riga trip's travel costs for for filming during 2009-2010. and for international film production insurance (covering equipment, liability, auto, etc. for all filming in 2009-10).

The Chicago office of Foley & Lardner is providing pro bono legal services, including crew agreements, interview releases, co-production agreements, rights for archival photos and footage.

Mitch says that the efforts of friends, supporters and everyone interested in Latvian Jewry past and present is necessary to make sure that this important part of Holocaust and communityhistory is recorded and preserved for this and future generations.

Check out both sites for much more information at the links above.

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