About this project
[Update: We have reached and exceeded our Kickstarter goal and the next stage of production is underway! We still need additional funds to complete the project. To follow our progress go to An Unknown Country Blog or friend us on Facebook.
Can I donate after this Kickstarter pledge drive ends December 12, 2011?
You may send tax deductible donations to:
New York Women in Film & Television
Attn: Easmanie Michel, Fiscal Sponsorship Coordinator
6 East 39th Street, Suite 1200
New York, NY 10016-0112
Make your check out to New York Women in Film & Television*. Be sure to state: Eva Zelig/An Unknown Country on the check and accompanying note. Thank you for all your support!
(*Note: New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) acts as a non-profit umbrella organization for film and video makers seeking to raise funds who require non-profit status to do so. NYWIFT accepts tax-deductible contributions on their behalf, and administers and disburses those funds back to them.)]
My name is Eva Zelig.
In my television career I’ve received many awards, including an Emmy, for programs I produced for major broadcast networks from ABC to PBS. All that time I told other people’s stories. Now, I’m producing a documentary to tell my own -- the story of my family and of others who fled Europe escaping the Nazi terror to find refuge in an unlikely destination: Ecuador.
An Unknown Country is an independent film that tells the story of those who were able to reach the shores of this small South American country -- barely known at the time. Featuring first hand accounts and archival material, the film opens a window on the exiles' perilous escape and difficult adjustment as they remade their lives in an unknown land.
Through the exiles’ personal testimonies, the documentary chronicles their heartbreaking search for a country that would take them in when most had closed their doors. It sheds light on why Ecuador, a small country with few resources, granted asylum to the refugees. It also explores the actions of Ecuador’s consuls in Europe: some exacted heavy fees for visas, others helped for humanitarian reasons. One consul daringly issued Ecuadorian passports to stateless refugees to delay deportation. For his life-saving efforts, he was honored posthumously in 2011 by Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the holocaust.
The film will provide fresh insights as it relates the refugees’ struggles to build new lives and hold on to elements of their European culture in what was for them an exotic, unfamiliar land. It explores the relations between the local inhabitants and the European immigrants in their midst, and highlights the contributions the immigrants made to the economic, artistic, and social life of their host country.
In the present day we follow Ecuador’s small Jewish community as it unveils designs for a monument to honor the humanitarian consul. The children of the refugees -- now living abroad -- return to Ecuador, the land of their birth. During this reunion, they reconnect with childhood memories and rediscover the unique and peculiar aspects of living in the country that welcomed their parents.
I began work on this project in 2010, eight months before I traveled to Ecuador to shoot the reunion. I interviewed exiles, their children and grandchildren, both there and in the United States. In the refugees’ poignant experience I found a lesson in survival and perseverance. I was reminded that it's more important than ever to capture and preserve the stories of those who witnessed and endured one of the most harrowing periods of the 20th century.
Until this drive I had borne the costs of production, but took it as far as I could alone. I came to Kickstarter to raise public support to get us to the next stage: a completed cut of the full-length story. I am working with Terence Taylor, a producer for New York's PBS station, WNET/Thirteen, who also designed The Big Bang Theory logo and motion graphics for POV and Independent Film Channel programs. He is cutting the film and designing additional elements, as he did in the preview. We plan to release An Unknown Country in 2012, and every dollar donated here brings us closer to telling this moving story.
If you like what you see and want more, please send a tax-deductible donation to the address above. Your generous contribution helps bring this little-known facet of the history of the Holocaust to a worldwide audience.
The amount we set for our Kickstarter goal was the minimum needed to progress--funds meant for expenses related to editing, additional research, shooting new footage, obtaining rights to archival photos, stock footage and music. Any amount above our goal that was raised here goes to the final phase of this project. Some premiums will be available before others.
SPREAD THE WORD to family, friends, and your own group mailing lists. Please pass on this Kickstarter page to everyone you know through Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, your blog, and the old-fashioned way -- word-of-mouth!
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