Thank you, all, who have contacted us. We are delighted that THE PRESENCE OF THEIR ABSENCE is ready for you on ITunes. The link below will also take you to any of your other digital accounts:
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A greatest source of the Holocaust comes from testimonies of survivors through memory reconstruction in documentary films.
Filmmaker Donna Kanter always wondered what happened after they rebuilt their lives with post-war children who inherited their trauma. Did the children fill in the blanks if their parents could not speak about their experiences? Or were they inundated with harrowing images?
In Los Angeles, California, Fred Zaidman’s mother Renate spoke incessantly of her pain. His father Wolf virtually shut down. From the contradictions of too much historic information and only scant clues, Fred lost a sense of belonging that disassociated him from his present.
Now, in his early sixties, Fred embarks on a journey to discover what had happened to his family in Poland during the Shoah. His primary goal is to find a single photo of his grandparents.
With only the will to push his limits, Fred constructs his family tree. Then, he is dropped into an unknown that will reconnect him to his past. With helpers in Poland, Israel, and Germany, he begins to unshackle his own pain and construct his future. Finally, from Atlanta, a Baptist minister leads Fred to a graveyard in Poland where he will rescue from oblivion a single family’s fate.
And in his quest for details that endow his identity, Fred draws us into an experience that transcends the larger catastrophe – the will to love.
" A film for the ages." - William Bernstein, The American Society for Yad Vashem
Fred Zaidman's parents Renate and Wolf in the Bergen-Belsen, Germany DP Camp. Renate is pregnant with her first son, Martin.
I was born in Harlem, New York, the middle of three sisters, our mother from Manhattan and father from Savannah, Georgia, with their roots in Russia-Poland, Austria-Hungary, and Spain.
Raised in Los Angeles in an atmosphere of comedy writers, I gravitated to news reporting at KING TV, Seattle, becoming Executive Producer before joining Newsweek, ABC as a foreign editor, and producer at NBC News. I eventually scratched my funny bone when George Schlatter hired me on his reality comedy series.
After launching 14 series and writing and directing FBI procedurals, I joined Chuck Workman’s Directors Guild workshop, Personal Filmmaking For Professionals. `15 of us stayed the course to make our films, alter our lives, and never look back.
My short was based on a book I had edited about film stillman Louis Goldman and the Italian priests who hid him during WWII. From that, I am completing the screenplay A Dangerous Alliance.
Next, I made the documentary LUNCH, featuring my father Hal Kanter and 11 other comedy legends who had been meeting together for 40 years.
Fred Zaidman was the first to notice LUNCH on my website. We formed a friendship and collaboration on The Presence of Their Absence, which traces Fred’s “inherited trauma” and search for his ancestral roots in the ashes of the Holocaust. It is a privilege to tell his unique story and make this deeply personal film.
I graduated UC Berkeley, earned my M.A. in Italian literature from the University of Florence and Middlebury College, and completed doctorate requirements with interest in WWII Italy’s Resistance.
The front row heckler still in me, I seek controversial projects. I am developing one with Elizabeth Frank, based on her novel Cheat and Charmer that evolves during the era of the Hollywood Blacklist.
An honoree of the AFI's Directing Workshop for Women, I support women filmmakers. As Treasurer of the TV Academy, I led executives in the formation of our investment policy, and was Governor of the Writers Peer Group. I'm a member of the DGA, WGA, AFTRA, and IDA.
Donna at a memorial site in the former Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.
I am the son of Holocaust survivors who suffered internally from the pain inflicted upon them during the Holocaust. A pain so excruciating, they avoided talking about their parents and siblings who had perished. Perhaps they were protecting me or protecting themselves, or both.
Born in Los Angeles, I grew up among Polish and Yiddish-speaking families, unsure if I belonged in the "old" world, or "new". I began working when I was 12, selling maps to movie stars' homes, and developed my competitive edge in sports, which came naturally. I have worked in various businesses and manage my properties.
My passion in life, volunteering to help the underserved and underprivileged, is inspired by the compassion my parents instilled in me with acts of kindness for the less fortunate, despite all that they had gone through.
But there was something always gnawing at me from deep down inside. I wanted to know who my grandparents, aunts, and uncles were, what did they look like. What were their names? Where did they live? What did they do? Questions I couldn't ask until much later in life. An invisible wall seemingly impenetrable separated my past from the present.
To protect my parents from reliving their pain, I made a promise to myself to wait until they had both passed away to begin my search for answers I had so desperately yearned for.
My parents had provided enough basic information to start my research. My commitment to building a family tree, which I believed existed as a tiny twig on a short branch, began when I turned 60.
I was hesitant to let a film crew follow my foray into the unknown. But it led to an unexpected journey that has yielded a plethora of information, meetings with new relatives, trips to Poland, Israel, and Germany, and a surprise that I invite you to discover with me.
An incredible journey that I hope will inspire others to seek their own answers and questions that are important personally and for future generations.
Now, at age 64, my passion for helping others has added a new element that has changed my life for the good.
Among 3,000 graves in the Jewish Cemetery of Radomsko, Poland, Fred Zaidman found...well, wait and see.
(L. to R.): In Radomsko, Poland, we put down cameras to help clean a mass grave with Baptist minister Steven Reece, our guide to Fred's spectacular discovery.
Sound and second cameraman Eric Ibarra is a 2014 Emerson College graduate who has lived in Hong Kong, Manila, Montana, and now is honing his craft in Los Angeles.
He has worked as a production designer, with a background in acting, casting, producing, and camera operation. Since in L.A., Eric has been a lead teacher through Digital Dragon, and co-founded a film company, Everland Pictures.
Also a graduate of Emerson College, cameraman and editor Edward Garcia moved to Los Angeles in 2015 from his hometown of Bedford, New Hampshire.
He has worked as a film editor, camera operator, and visual effects artist, and after moving west taught all over Los Angles as a contract teacher through Digital Dragon.
For the past three years, Edward has worked in post-production for clients all over the world. With family spread out from Texas to England, he regularly travels and hopes to continue working on projects that provide more career opportunities.
Edward is also a musician, with talents on the guitar, piano, trumpet, and digeridoo.
Fred Zaidman on the right.
Our beacon to Fred's final journey, Steven D. Reece leads The Matzevah Foundation to care for and restore Jewish cemeteries in Poland, commemorate mass gravesites, and educate the public about the Holocaust.
He is an ordained Baptist minister and graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Steven was a photojournalist living in Poland when serendipity led him to a Jewish cemetery. Learning it was one of 1,200 neglected since the Shoah, he was impelled to remember and honor the heritage of the Jews who once called Poland home.
His goal is to restore the cemeteries and the complex relationship between Poles and Jews whose ancestors had thrived in Poland before the Nazis murdered 3.5 million of them.
Poland is the ancestral home to 80% of North American Jews. Steven is developing a model for how they can partner with Poles to care for the cemeteries and open a path of reconciliation.
Steven Reece is a 2018 candidate for the PhD in Leadership at Andrews University. He is certified to teach about the Holocaust through Yad Vashem and Tel Aviv University. A Texas native, he lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
For more about Steven's unique work:
https://issuu.com/atlantajewishtimes/docs/ajt_may_6_2016_web- By Jan Jaben-Eilon - page 17
SEE 2018 SCREENINGS BELOW
FILM AVAILABLE NOW FOR EDUCATORS. CONTACT
We were honored by the Directors Guild of America's debut screening of The Presence of Their Absence for the DGA'S Directors Finder Series on Friday, May 11, 2018: www:dga.org.
Congratulations to all of our participants, with our thanks to friends in attendance, and for your questions during the Q&A with moderator Lynne Littman.
We were delighted that our next screenings and Q&A were courtesy of The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) and the American Society for Yad Vashem on Sunday, August 19 at the RealD Theater, and at the Skirball Cultural Center on Tuesday evening, October 23, 2018.
The film will be available for public screenings and distribution formats shortly. Until then, please see dates below of upcoming screenings.
We welcome your comments on our BLOG below. Thank you!
Fred Zaidman at the gate of the Anne Frank Memorial Museum and former Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, Germany.
Our first stop in Warsaw seeking Fred's ancestral roots is at The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute.
Anna Przybyszewska-Drozd, head of the Genealogy Department, and Matan Shefi, researcher of Jewish genealogy, set Fred on his path - even if it might mean going everywhere to find nothing,
Anna studied archaeology and worked in documentary film. Her passion is psychology, finding and connecting pieces that make up a family's history.
Matan grew up in Jerusalem and moved to Warsaw to deepen his relationship with his Polish roots. He was an officer in the Israeli navy and studied European History and Humanities at Hebrew University.
For 20 years, The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute has been helping people search their family history. Contact them with what you know and they'll help you to put the puzzles together: http://www.jhi.pl
You never know where you might find help with your own search for connections to family history in Poland.
Seeking clues to his paternal roots in the Zaglembie region, Fred struck gold when he found Adam Szydlowski in the town of Bedzin.
Before the Shoah, Fred's father Wolf was a teenager and young man in Bedzin, when half the town was Jewish. Today there are three Jews.
Adam is a community leader helping to restore Jewish life in Bedzin. As he launches Fred's search for relatives from a citizen registry he had managed, it leads the new friends to a whole other quest.
His mind reeling from first findings, Fred will take a break to join Adam's grand opening of Bedzin's first Jewish business in 75 years.
Please see our trailer:
We welcome comments.
FOR FUTURE SCREENING DATES IN YOUR CITY, PLEASE SEND YOUR NAME AND EMAIL ADDRESS TO:
WE WILL NOTIFY YOU!
Writers Guild Of America, West
SCREENING and Q&A
7000 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90048 - Parking in garage
Wednesday, 10/17, 7:30 p.m. – WGAW, 2nd Floor, Multi-Purpose Room. Info: 323-782-4589
The Career Longevity Committee invites you to attend a special screening of The Presence of Their Absence, from filmmaker Donna Kanter (Lunch).
The Presence of Their Absence follows a son of Holocaust survivors on a journey to trace his inherited trauma. With only the will to push his limits and scant clues from his parents, Fred Zaidman is dropped into the unknown to find his roots in the ashes of the Shoah, unshackle his own pain, and construct his future.
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/286647451 (Password: kdonna). A Q&A with Donna Kanter, Fred Zaidman, and Minister Steven Reece follows the film. WGAW members +1. RSVP: http://click.email.wgaw.org/rsvp/?absence
SKIRBALL CULTUTAL CENTER, LOS ANGELES
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049018
Note: This film has been rescheduled from what was listed in the At the Skirball program guide. Please make note of this new date, Tuesday, October 23, at 8:00 p.m.
From filmmaker Donna Kanter (Lunch), The Presence of Their Absence is the story of Fred Zaidman, the Los Angeles son of Holocaust survivors, on a journey to trace his roots and his “inherited trauma.”
In the ashes of the Shoah, with helpers abroad and a Baptist minister from Atlanta, Zaidman unshackles his own pain and reconstructs his future. (2018, 85 min. No MPAA rating.)
A Q&A with Donna Kanter, Fred Zaidman, and Minister Steven Reece follows the film.
Trailer: https://vimeo.com/286647451 (Password: kdonna).
AUGUST 2018 SCREENING:
WE WERE PLEASED TO RECEIVE GUESTS AT A SCREENING AND Q &A ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON, AUGUST 19, 2018, AT REAL D THEATER, GENEROUSLY SPONSORED BY THE LOS ANGELES MUSEUM OF THE HOLOCAUST AND THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF YAD VASHEM.
At Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center - in Jerusalem, Holocaust Historian Gideon Greif guides Fred through the mystery of what happened to his family in Poland's Zaglembie region.
Here, he tells Fred a little-known fact about tattoos at Auschwitz.
Gideon Greif specializes in the history of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the Sonderkommando in Auschwitz.
His book We Wept Without Tears inspired Hungarian director László Nemes to create the film Son of Saul dedicated to the Sonderkommando. The film won the 2016 Oscar for the best foreign language film.
Dr. Greif has been Professor of Jewish and Israeli History at the University of Texas. He earned his master's degree in Jewish History at Tel Aviv University and PhD from the University of Vienna.
His first trip to Israel for a long-awaited meeting, Fred will call it a reunion with cousins he never imagined existed.
After two years of seeking Birencwaigs from his father's maternal branch, Fred finds two cousins named Efrat and Gali in the USA.
Their father, Fred's second cousin - Itay Beery - and his wife Eitana open their hearts and home to more cousins - all Israeli Birencwaigs and Beerys, with prestigious careers, warmth, and humor.
Researcher Sarafima “Sima” Velkovich has traced and assembled a book of Fred's family journey during and after the Holocaust.
We need only to see their faces when Sima presents Fred with a startling revelation.
Since its inception in 1993, among many scholarly projects, Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research has supported worldwide research on the Holocaust and related topics.
Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center - has created an international network of researchers to help children of survivors reconstruct their own stories from its vast archives.
We invite you to visit its website:
In Atlanta, attorney David Markowitz thought for sixty years that there were just four people in his family - his brother and his parents...
...until Fred finds a photo of David's grandmother.
As the two new cousins meet in Atlanta, unravel the mystery, and tell their stories of growing up as children of survivors, a bond is forged, memories unfold, and a surprise appears in David's photo album.
At the gate of Auschwitz