[Cz-L] Re: czernowitz-l digest: May 03, 2008

From: Andrew Halmay <venivici_at_rogers.com>
Date: Sun, 04 May 2008 09:17:53 -0400
To: Czernowitz-L_at_cornell.edu
Reply-to: Andrew Halmay <venivici_at_rogers.com>

Dear Compatriots:

Regarding Traian Popovici and the plaque, let us put it in perspective.

1. Plaques, regardless of the importance of the message they
carry, often go unnoticed, particularly by the young. The whole
effort is not that big a deal.

2. When it comes to languages to be used, the following must be
taken into consideration.

a. We must include Romanian since the man we honor is Romanian.

b. We must include German since that was the official language
spoken in Czernowitz for a longer period in history than any other.

c. We must have English because that is today's Lingua Franca, and
even in Romania it has replaced French.

d. And we have to have Ukrainian since the plaque's host
country is the Ukraine.

e. It would be nice to include Yiddish. I suspect, however,
that more people in the world can understand spoken Yiddish but get
lost when trying to read it. It would be nice to add Hebrew out of
respect but the relevance of Hebrew to Popovici is a bit thin and
thus less important.

f. The content of the text should provide some perspective on the
numbers who died and the numbers Popovici saved.

3. Some time back, Miriam Taylor, perhaps the greatest
Czernowitz champion, suggested to me that I make a film about
Czernowitz. I explained that films need strong stories that will
persuade funding sources that they will attract audiences so that the
investment doesn't go down the drain. I knew of no such stories
about Czernowitz.

Now, having been introduced to Popovici and having done additional
research, I feel we have a powerful story for a film. Compared to
Schindler, Popovici is huge. Schindler saved 1,200 Jews off whom he
made good profits, and his original motivation leading to contact
with these victims was greed. Popovici saved 20,000 and he had
nothing material to gain in saving them. At worst, he may have risked
his own life. He was a man of great character, a super-mensch.

While deeply moved by Spielberg's film on Schindler, from a story
perspective I felt the script left much to be desired. He
concentrated on the victims instead of on the man who was supposed to
be the hero. I would have liked to have been given more perspective
on the man and his character and the mental process that took him
 from exploiter to benefactor and savior.

With Popovici, a similar and yet very different story, I would like
to give audiences far greater perspective on the man while providing
an historical progression that led to the Holocaust. Depending on
what details I can find on the man, his childhood, his family and all
the elements that formed his character, I want to start the story
early, before WW I.

Concurrently, there will be a parallel story of a Jewish family in
Czernowitz who become the focal point representative of all Jews in
Czernowitz. It is more effective to give audiences individuals with
whom they can identify and who represent larger numbers than giving
them crowds and statistics that are impersonal.

At the same time, and to me this is one of the most important parts
of the film, we show progressive historical events in Europe that led
to the war; Hitler's progress, the apathy and ignorance of leaders of
the other powers, the obsequiousness of Chamberlain, etc., etc.

At this point the details of the story are still vague in my mind but
I have decided on its structure which will include a relevant
narrator which gives us economical leeway in covering events
graphically. And I know exactly how the film will start - in the
present - with the unveiling of a statue of Popovici at which we also
find a small crowd of young students and their history teacher. He
begins to tell them the story and then we dissolve to action, but
whenever appropriate, we can use his voice-over narration to cover
certain events or aspects with a sentence that would have incurred
great costs with crews on location, etc.

I have felt all along, while discussions continued on the plaque,
that a statue would be far more appropriate. If we can get the film
off the ground, we'll have a statue and the unveiling will be visible
to the entire world through the film and with clips on the web.

  I started yesterday to gather relevant data for the screenplay. I
call this the gathering of pollen period. Pollen from different
plants and flowers gets churned up in the mind and hopefully turns to
sweet honey in the screenplay.

I have written to Mr. Lehaci asking for any detailed background he
may have on Popovici and/or some direction where additional data may
be found. Google is the greatest blessing in such efforts. In about
seven hours yesterday, I gathered pages and pages of data, many
stories from survivors, but so far nothing directly related to
Popovici. I will contact the executive director of Shoa at USC who
have some 52 thousand interviews with Holocaust survivors. Hopefully
they will have some stories that relate to our situation. But
ultimately, with that part of the story, we can take literary license
and make the Jewish family an amalgam of stories with fictional bits
to provide fully fleshed out characters who are relevant and credible.

I hope that among you, the members of the Cz Group, there will be
stories you can share of people who survived thanks to Traian
Popovici and I thank you in advance for any information you may be
able to supply.

Alles gutes - cu noroc.

Andy Halmay.
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Received on 2008-05-04 13:17:53

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