Thursday, November 15, 2012

Help Get a Hero of the Holocaust His Due Recognition

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 11:07 AM

Many of you are probably familiar with Nashville author and journalist E. Thomas Wood's 1994 biography of Jan Karski, one of those figures you discover in history's back pages who should be much better known than he is. Karski, a Polish resistance fighter in World War II, risked certain death to gather information on the Nazis' extermination of European Jews early in the war and mounted a desperate campaign to alert the West. The losses that might have been averted if his intelligence had been better heeded is one of 20th century history's most chilling what-ifs.

It's not surprising that a figure as fascinating (and a character as colorful, as Wood can attest) would have attracted movie attention over the years. This new project sounds especially promising: a documentary that means to circumvent the usual talking-head malaise by employing the animator behind one of the most acclaimed and innovative documentaries of recent years. Many Nashvillians saw the Oscar-nominated Israeli documentary Waltz with Bashir when it played here a few years ago. They likely still remember the stunning rotoscope animation that made its soldier's-eye view of the 1982 Lebanon War graphic in every sense.

Wood reports that a Kickstarter campaign is underway to complete the Karski documentary. A rough trailer appears above with glimpses of the proposed animation. We're passing along this appeal from Wood because the project has the makings of something special. Read on:

In 1994, I co-wrote Karski: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust. It's the biography of Jan Karski, the Pole who took it upon himself to witness the mass-murder of Europe’s Jews in 1942 and then traveled to London and Washington, where he reported on the emerging Holocaust to senior Allied officials including President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I sought to bring Karski’s story to light because I believe his heroism deserves to be known to future generations. Others feel the same way: In May of this year, President Obama posthumously awarded Professor Karski the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Several parties have approached me over the years about both dramatic and documentary adaptations of it. Since 2008, I have been collaborating on a documentary project led by Slawomir Grünberg, a Polish-born filmmaker who lives in New York. Grünberg has directed and produced more than forty television documentaries, winning a national Emmy Award and numerous film-festival prizes.

Grünberg’s plan is to combine interview footage with historical scenes recreated via a unique form of animation. Yoni Goodman, animator of the Oscar-nominated 2008 documentary Waltz with Bashir, has joined the project team for the Karski film. This trailer includes roughed-in versions of Goodman's animation.

Grünberg raised seed funding in Poland and the United States that made it possible to conduct several interviews for the documentary and to take on much of the other necessary spadework on it. He needs to raise another $150,000 to complete the film.

He launched a KickStarter campaign on Nov. 1, seeking to raise that sum. It's a heavy lift, for sure, but more than 350 projects seeking $100,000 or more have successfully raised funding on KickStarter since it launched in 2009, according to statistics on its website.

So far, 42 supporters have pledged more than $7,500. Several are from Nashville. The largest single pledge to date exceeds $1,250. More than 150 people have "liked" the campaign on Facebook.

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