About this project
WE HAVE MET THE INITIAL GOAL!
The Kickstarter campaign has gone over the top! An enormous THANK YOU one and all!
Is the campaign still open? Absolutely! Would like to announce a "stretch drive," a new extension drive to $50,000. There are so many costs connected to a documentary, as well as the 8.5% costs associated with using Kickstarter and Amazon Payments (over which I have no control). I'm SO grateful for getting to this point....but please let's not stop here.
The last weekend, and more outstanding coverage online!
Jew-ish.com is a prominent online site based in Seattle. Check out their nice write-up of the film and of this campaign. Great coverage!
More great write-ups on line!
www.aish.com is a very widely read website, and today it features a prominent story written by Tusia about her experiences discovering that she was Jewish, and how her sense of self changed. Pretty much what the film is about. Her story is a great read (and has a plug for THE RETURN at the end)!
Check out THE RETURN in the news!
There have been a couple of nice write-ups of the project in the news lately. Here's one on the Shalom Life website http://us.shalomlife.com/culture/19185/exclusive-adam-zuckers-the-return-explores-jewish-culture-in-modern-poland/
And here's another one on the blog of The Foundation for Jewish Culture, writing about the Museum opening in Warsaw and the film http://cultureshuk.com/2013/04/22/fjc-grantees-reshaping-polish-jewish-culture/
We're a Kickstarter Staff Pick!
April 19 was the 70th commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. As Piotr says in the film, "For many Jews it has become the holiest day of the year." Since the entire area--in fact virtually all of Warsaw--was destroyed, there is no way to even visit the Ghetto and honor its memory.
But this April 19, after ten years of planning and $100 million in costs, The Museum of the History of Jews in Poland opened--a dramatic step towards memorializing and redefining that long history, while also becoming the city's newest tourist attraction.
THE RETURN is a perfect complement to that official history. It tells the human story of individual people struggling today to live with and live apart from that lineage; to carve out their own lives as individuals while accessing that rich inheritance. The film tells the very human story of acknowledging the past without being beholden to it. It is a story of the future of Judaism in Poland.
HOW I GOT INVOLVED WITH THE STORY
In 2008 I read in the New York Times about the renewed interest in Jewish culture in Poland; huge festivals and celebrations promoted and attended by non-Jews. I was intrigued. When I went to Krakow and Warsaw the following summer, I found great music and sincere interest among non-Jewish Poles. And while it was surprising and fascinating, it didn’t seem to be a “story” that I could truly develop. However, on the same trip I met many young Polish Jews, brought up Catholic, now driven to explore their “recently discovered” Jewish heritage. Yet they were completely cut off from that rich tradition, with no idea of what it truly meant.
That disconnect—the desire to pursue Jewish identity in what was once the very heart of Jewish life, but with no link at all to that history—immediately grabbed me, and I couldn’t let go of the story. As an American Jew who’d always felt deep kinship with my own Eastern Europe heritage, I realized this was the film I had been waiting to make for years—without even knowing it.
ABOUT THE FILM
Poland holds a central and unique place in the history and consciousness of most American Jews. It’s the place where the majority of Jews can trace their ancestry, where most of the major components in the modern Jewish world have their origins (Yiddish, Reform Judaism, Hasidism, klezmer music), where a greater number of Jews lived before WW2 than anywhere else, and, sadly, the place where the most Jews were killed during the Holocaust. After the horrors of the war period, it was assumed that the world of Polish Jewry had been erased from the land only to become a part of history.
In fact, most people today generally believe three myths regarding Poland and its former Jewish population:
- Poland is nothing but a Jewish cemetery
- It's the most anti-Semitic place in the world
- No Jews live in Poland
None of the statements are true. In what was once the very epicenter of the Jewish world, a generation of young Poles has been discovering their long-lost Jewish roots. And these young “hidden” Jews are emerging into a world not so much filled with anti-Semitism and hate, but a Poland characterized by a surprising and curious case of “philo-Semitism”—the love and obsession with all things Jewish. In a grey culture with little ethnic tradition, Jewishness is the colorful exotic element in Poland’s past. Today, in Warsaw and other cities, having a Jewish girlfriend is “the height of cool,” and klezmer music and studying Yiddish are popular activities for non-Jewish Poles.
THE RETURN is a feature length documentary which tells the story of this new generation of Poles who are exploring and struggling with issues of identity in a virtual vacuum. The story is told through the experiences of four young women whom I have filmed over a four year period, as they navigate their way through these challenging waters. Together, Kasia, Katka, Maria and Tusia make up a composite image of a small but growing group in Poland—a generation informed by the Holocaust but not defined by it. It's a remarkable story that I really felt compelled to tell. Each of the four woman's stories has twisted and turned in surprising and unexpected directions.
WHY THE FILM IS IMPORTANT
I truly believe this film is important—both to American Jews, and on a wider scale, to everyone. Issues of minority identity, be it from a religious, ethnic, or cultural origin, speak to all viewers.
At the same time, within the world of American Jewry, Poland is a very special place. But ever since the end of Communism, that reality has been evolving, as a minute Jewish core has been the linchpin to a slowly growing renewed presence. One that forces Poles as well as the Jewish world to question the neat, confined place that Poland holds in their mind as the “home” of the Nazi Holocaust. Millions of people every year go on important pilgrimages to Poland, to visit the concentration camps and commemorate what once was. But how many of Auschwitz’s 1.4 million visitors make an effort to also visit the small and youthful Jewish community of Krakow, just 40 miles away?
This is a film about the future, not the past. About the struggle to figure out how to come to terms with history and move boldly forward. A film that portrays the singular challenge Polish Jews face, and to understand where they are going.
As with my other films, THE RETURN will hopefully have a long life at film festivals, on broadcast television, and perhaps even a limited run in movie theaters. But I am just as focused on its “afterlife” and the impact I envision it will have there.
From the beginning I’ve conceived of THE RETURN as something that would fill a niche in the American Jewish world. While there are dozens of new documentaries about the Holocaust each year, THE RETURN will be quite different. That is why a wide range of Jewish groups have enthusiastically endorsed the film, indicating their excitement at helping bring it out into the world. This will be accomplished through facilitated screenings at Jewish Community Centers, Hillel centers on college campuses, synagogues and Jewish cultural centers.
Also, by telling the story of people in their 20s (and young 30s) it will have particular appeal to young Jews who are often seen as being “in a black hole” –out of college, no longer living with their parents, without families of their own yet, and hence largely unaffiliated with Jewish institutions. This core group is much sought after within the Jewish world, as leaders don’t want to “lose” them. While I can’t claim seeing this film will bring people “back into the fold,” I have no doubt it will engage them and frame their own identity questions and issues in new and provocative ways.
WHY I NEED YOUR HELP
I’ve been a documentary filmmaker for over 20 years and have never before asked friends, families and colleagues for financial support in making a film. I’ve been fortunate to have received enough grants to pay for my previous films, and I am extremely grateful for the funds I have received so far for THE RETURN. But after three years of fundraising, I can attest that times have changed. I have cut every corner to keep costs down but am now approaching the most expensive phase of filmmaking—post production—which is both critical and pricey. Your support will enable me to finish the film by funding:
- Sound mixing
- Color correcting
- Hiring a composer
- Music licenses
Like so many other independent filmmakers, I have turned to the Kickstarter community to ask for your help. Every pledge, small or large, is truly appreciated from the bottom of my heart.
OTHER WAYS YOU CAN HELP
The biggest gift you can give right now – maybe even beyond the value of your donation – is to spread the word about THE RETURN. Please help me expand the film’s reach by introducing people to this project. Tell your friends, co-workers, family, anyone you think might be interested in this unique and untold story about Jews and Poland. Visit THE RETURN's Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheReturnFilm) and like, post and share comments. Follow us on Twitter @TheReturnFilm for the latest news and updates. You can also post about THE RETURN should you have your own blog. Please join THE RETURN Team and help us get the word out!
THE RETURN TEAM
Adam Zucker (Director / Producer) is a documentary filmmaker and editor. His film Greensboro: Closer to the Truth (www.greensborothemovie.com) received the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Rome International Film Festival and Best Documentary at the Dead Center Film Festival. It screened at over 35 festivals in the U.S. and abroad and has been shown at dozens of universities and educational settings, including the United Nations. The nationally focused Audience Engagement effort, The Closer to the Truth Project, is utilizing the film in varied communities across the U.S. Adam has received grants from the Sundance Documentary Fund, Jerome Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts and the Southern Humanities Media Fund, among many others.
He has also cut numerous feature documentaries including Rory Kennedy’s AMERICAN HOLLOW (HBO, Sundance Film Festival), Dori Berinstein’s CAROL CHANNING: LARGER THAN LIFE, SHOW BUSINESS and GOTTA DANCE (all Tribeca Film Festival premieres and Showtime broadcasts), Michael Kantor’s BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL (PBS), Madison Davis Lacy’s RICHARD WRIGHT: BLACK BOY (PBS) and Ken Burns and Steve Ives’ THE WEST (PBS).
Scott Anger (Director of Photography) has for over 25 years worked as an award-winning independent journalist and multi-platform storyteller. He has shot and helped produce five independent documentary films: Zucker’s GREENSBORO: CLOSER TO THE TRUTH, Richard Hankin’s HOME FRONT, Deborah Dickson’s WITNESSES TO A SECRET WAR and THE LOST BIRD PROJECT and Sakae Ishikawa’s LIFE IN LIMBO. Scott has helped produce seven films for the PBS program FRONTLINE, including two that have received duPont Awards for Excellence in Journalism. He is currently the managing director of The Lost Bird Project, an art-based environmental non-profit headquartered in New York City. Scott has also been a photojournalist covering international stories, and served as Voice of America’s bureau chief based in Islamabad, Pakistan.
Jack Youngelson (Consulting Producer) is an Emmy Award winning documentary film director, producer and writer. His projects have been shown by numerous broadcasters in the United States and internationally, including HBO, PBS, A&E, Bravo, BBC, and Channel Four. Credits include GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB (writer/producer, HBO, Sundance Film Festival) with director Rory Kennedy for which he won an Emmy in 2007 and TIERNEY GEARON: THE MOTHER PROJECT (director, Sundance Channel). Other recent television credits include ETHEL for HBO (producer); episode 3 - ELECTRIC NATION - for the PBS series, AMERICA REVEALED (writer / producer), episode three – RETHINKING HAPPINESS – for the PBS series, THIS EMOTIONAL LIFE (writer / director); AFRICAN AMERICAN LIVES II and FINDING YOUR ROOTS for PBS (director / producer) and THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT: HELEN THOMAS AT THE WHITE HOUSE for HBO (producer).
WHAT IS KICKSTARTER?
Kickstarter is a crowd-funding platform that enables creative projects like THE RETURN to find the financial support they need from individual people. It allows you to be part of the team by pledging money towards the cause. In return, we have reward gifts for you, based on various donation levels. You can see the rewards on the right side of the page. Kickstarter operates with an all-or-nothing model, so this campaign must reach its stated goal of $45,000 or it can’t keep ANY of the money pledged. You will only be charged your pledge amount when we reach our entire funding goal. Can we exceed this goal? Absolutely! Kickstarter will allow as to raise as much money as we can by the campaign’s ending date, Sunday, May 5th. Even though $45,000 seems to be a huge amount, it’s really only enough for the most bare-bones approach to filmmaking, and a bit more would mean that much less begging, favors and creative accounting. With your help, I know we can do this and meet our goal.
Risks and challenges
Documentary filmmaking is always challenging and not just for the obvious financial impediments. The very nature of true non-fiction storytelling is not knowing what will happen, which therefore makes budgeting, scripting and planning during production extremely difficult.
Almost all of the shooting on THE RETURN is completed. While the story is “in the can,” I’m still filling some holes and enhancing some storypoints, and it’s hard to predict when the shoots can happen or how they’ll turn out. But even though the film continues to need finessing, and it’s hard to be precise about the completion date, I have passed that “tipping point” at which the story and film WILL definitely get completed. The real obstacle now is funding, and when we reach the Kickstarter goal it will get us over the hump so that the film can be completed and get out into the world for all to see.
Thanks for checking out THE RETURN, and a huge thank you for whichever way you're able to help!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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