Over the winter holiday, I've done a lot of thinking on how to go about telling this story through a film, and it's been very important to me to learn as much as I can. Allowing the visuals to enter my head can often be challenging, it's difficult for me to read about so much human suffering done by the hands of others. I spent some time researching the female-side of the Auschwitz prison camp, and reading about the brutalities of the female Nazi officers. I've been studying the daily schedule in the camp as well as learning about the diets of the prisoners. Even though they were doing hours and hours of heavy manual labor everyday, they were still only fed about a 1500 calorie a day diet. Which I think is insane! I can barely stick to a 2000 calorie a day diet :)
When I went to Colorado in December to visit my family, it was the coldest place I'd been since before I left for Africa. Even all bundled up I kept wanting to complain about the cold. It was bone chilling, and it made me think, during my research, how difficult it is for me even to imagine being forced to work in raggedy clothes and no heat for hours and hours.
I love to sit outside at night before I go to bed. I've always liked to do this. I like to sip tea and look out into the darkness and fall into my mind. Over Hanukkah I would sit with the menorah in the darkness, in the cold, bundled up and think about all kinds of things. Sitting out there made me think a lot about movies and what filmmaking is. It's also helped me to starting feeling the visuals and character of my story.
As I think any person interested in making biographical films would be curious...I had a thought that each of our lives is kind of like a movie, in a way. I almost feel like G-d creates a narrative out of most of our lives that lasts about 90 years, similar to the way that we create feature film stories that go for 90 minutes. There's an interesting similarity to me and thinking about this made me take a look outside of the moment or mundane trivialities which seem to be worrying me, and force me to look at a bigger picture.
For instance, at the end of January I'm moving out of my apartment, in the middle of the crazy stress of pre-production for another film I'm shooting in March, and during this time I will have all of my things packed up in boxes and shoved into a corner until I can move to my new apartment. Because of a scheduling complication, I won't be able to move into my new place until February 3rd, which means for four days, I will have very little access to my things (which I may need for school) and have to shuffle from place to place to sleep as a guest. To make it even more interesting, due to a back injury I can't lift more than 30 lbs. for the next three months, which means that I can't move most of my own boxes or any of my own furniture. It's incredibly frustrating to not be able to lift your own things when needing to move quickly and cheaply. Amidst the chaos of getting ready to shoot a film, while still being in classes, this has all been pretty stressful.
However, this week I took advantage of an amazing opportunity, as a part of the UCLA Hillel, over the next month I will get to meet and have lunch two more times with Holocaust Surviver Dorothy Greenstein as a part of their BEARING WITNESS program.
Dorothy grew up in Warsaw, Poland, and is the daughter of a rabbi and shochet. She was sent on her own to go into hiding and moved from the ghetto, to work as a mother's helper throughout the war. She moved from home to home, working for Polish women, and using a name she stole off a gravestone in order to get a false birth certificate, Polish name and hide her Jewish identity. Every time she would need a new job she would knock on the door, with no money and just the clothes on her back, asking to work and live in the house. I can't imagine how terrifying this must have been, to be on your own with nothing and nowhere to go, and no one to help you for fear of being caught, killed, or punished by the law.
In retrospect, I get overly frustrated simply having to pack all my things and move during an inconvenient scheduling time in my life, and it's totally ridiculous. She has now moved to the US and made an amazing life for herself, volunteering and increasing Holocaust awareness. After talking with her, I can see something that's not so easy when I just go about living my everyday life, I can get frustrated about a cancelled meeting, annoyed with being stuck in traffic or impatient with a desk clerk for not moving what I consider quickly enough to provide me with customer service. But, after talking to Dorothy it's got me thinking, I have been lucky enough to have a room full of stuff to move, friends that will help me move, and friends that will let me stay with them until I can get settled. I have a mom I can call when I'm having a bad day, and little brother who I can send text messages filled with LOL's and LMAO's to. I wish more people could remember the Holocaust and appreciate the people who are willing to share their experiences surviving it more. I think the things that these people went through just seem surreal in comparison to things that most of us go through on a daily basis.
My first lunch with Dorothy has been amazing, and lucky me, I not only got to have lunch with her this past week, but will have two more lunches to look forward to in which I can not only have been exposed to Jewish life in Poland pre-war, but hear from incredible person about new ways to look at life, family and situations. I dedicate this blog post to Dorothy Greenstein.