Survivor. Orphan. Witness. The remarkable story of Nathan Bobrov
He escaped a massacre, witnessed the slaughter of his community and watched his former neighbor – an accused Nazi collaborator – walk free. A Holocaust survivor confronts his painful past as he returns to his Ukrainian village for the first time in more than 60 years.
THE BOY FROM SERNIKI is a feature documentary directed by Justin Kenny about the remarkable life of Nathan Bobrov, the fate of the Jewish community in Serniki, Ukraine and a quest for justice.
Bobrov was just nine-years-old when he narrowly escaped an organized mass shooting which took the lives of his mother, two sisters, two brothers and several hundred other Serniki Jews. After living for months with partisan fighters in the forests of Northwestern Ukraine, members of the Russian military agreed to take the young boy out of the conflict zone and flew him to Moscow on a supply plane. Bobrov was quickly shipped off to an orphanage hundreds of miles away near the republic of Tartarstan - where he was the only Jew.
Despite overwhelming obstacles, Bobrov persevered and after leaving the orphanage as an adult he returned to Ukraine and earned a technical degree before immigrating to Israel in the 1950's. He became an engineer there and started a family while trying to put his painful past behind him.
That past resurfaced in 1989, when Australian investigators arrived in Tel Aviv to ask about the activities of his former neighbor and accused Nazi collaborator Ivan "Ivanechko" Poyukhovich. Polyukhovich had emigrated to Australia in the late 1940's with his second wife and her children and eventually settled in the city of Adelaide. Much to the shock of his Australian neighbors Polyukhovich became the first and only World War II era war crimes suspect to be tried in an Australian court.
Despite a rigorous investigation, including an unprecedented excavation of the mass killing site in the Ukraine and testimony by Bobrov and other witnesses, Polyukhovich was acquitted.
Through multiple interviews with Bobrov in Israel and Ukraine, villagers in Serniki, Holocaust historians, individuals involved in the Australian investigation and trial, recorded testimonies of now deceased Serniki survivors and archive footage from Australian media and investigators, we will produce the first ever feature documentary exploring the scope of the Serniki massacre and the unsuccessful efforts at seeking justice for it's victims.
Our team will soon be embarking on distribution outreach in anticipation of a 2019 release date which will include pitching major documentary broadcasters, cable channels and streaming services in the United States, Israel, Australia and beyond as well as major film festivals globally.
Additionally, we will secure a permanent public home for source material (interviews/ footage/ documents) used in the film so that future generations will have access to firsthand testimonies and information.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
We are increasingly aware that the world has not taken the devastating lessons of history to heart. While mankind has not again experienced an event on the scale of the Holocaust, in Rwanda, Bosnia and Syria, there have been atrocities on a horrific scale. We feel it is our obligation to remind people today and in the future of the dangers of unchecked populism, antisemitism, racism, genocide, perpetrator impunity and a world that often ignores or turns away from the suffering of its most vulnerable populations.
The specific story told in this movie, was born out of our relationship with Nathan Bobrov the father of Dov Bobrov, who is the brother-in-law of director Justin Kenny and producer Jennifer Knoll. What started as a few on-camera interviews, sparked further curiosity, research, travel and the realization that there's an important story that hasn't been told before. To tell the story of Nathan’s life and the search for the truth and justice, we have already traveled three times to Israel, once to Ukraine, and interviewed Holocaust experts in various locations. The next stop is Australia. We need your help to move forward.
WHAT'S THE PLAN? WHEN WILL IT BE FINISHED?
Our goal is to wrap up production and begin post-production in January 2019 and release the film later in the year. A large amount of the film has already been shot in Israel, the United States and Ukraine. Director Justin Kenny will be traveling to Australia before the end of 2018 to interview several key individuals involved in the Polyukhovich trial and investigation including attorneys, investigators, journalists and the lead archaeologist who oversaw the excavation of the mass grave at Serniki. After the trip, Kenny and Knoll will begin assembling the film, gathering remaining archive and interview elements, and working with composer Ryan Marth to score scenes and graphics producer Paul Franz to create archive document sequences. Our penciled "picture lock" estimate is the Summer of 2019, the fall back estimate is the Fall of 2019.
DON'T YOU NEED MORE THAN $18,000?
Absolutely! This film will cost several times that amount to produce, market and distribute. The Kickstarter money will help fund director Justin Kenny's travel to Australia in the coming weeks where he and local crew members will conduct several interviews in Sydney and Adelaide with journalists, investigators, attorneys and others involved in the war crimes trial.
The funds will also be used to cover some of the costs in producing the just completed trailer including archive licensing, music composition/production, audio mixing and graphics production.
With the trailer in hand, we will be reaching out to individual and foundation donors and applying for production, post-production and distribution grants.
WHY IS THIS KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN IMPORTANT?
This Kickstarter campaign and your help is critical. A successful campaign signals to potential funders and distributors that there is strong support among individuals who believe in what we are doing and that there is an audience for the film. The donations raised in the campaign will also allow us to keep recording testimonies without interruption.
WHO IS MAKING THE FILM?
Justin Kenny - Director/Cinematographer/Producer/Writer/ Editor
Justin Kenny is an award winning journalist, documentary filmmaker and owner of Small Footprint Films, a news and documentary production company focused on international humanitarian and social justice issues. In 2017, he directed and wrote his first feature documentary The New Barbarianism which won first place in the Los Angeles Film Awards and made its PBS debut in March 2018. From 2012-2015, he led the PBS NewsHour's foreign coverage as the program's foreign editor and senior producer. During his tenure, he doubled the amount of original overseas reporting on the show and won some of television journalism's top awards including two Emmys, a Peabody and a National Headliner Award. From 1997-2012, Kenny worked for Reuters Television as a producer and later as its North American News Editor. He was born and raised in West Warwick, RI and is a proud alumnus of Bishop Hendricken High School (Warwick, RI) and Marymount University (Arlington, VA).
Jennifer Knoll - Producer
Jennifer Knoll is a former television news producer, reporter and print journalist based in Jerusalem and Washington for various news organizations including the Associated Press, CTV, ABC News and Reuters, Israeli Channel 1 & 2 and The Jerusalem Report. She is a fluent Hebrew speaker and a graduate of the University of Michigan. In addition to her work on the film, Jennifer is one of Washington DC's most successful residential real estate agents.
Martin Dean - Historian
Martin Dean is a renowned Holocaust researcher, historian and author. During the 1990's he was one of the lead historians of the Australian government's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) which was tasked with researching historical records in Germany and Russia to find evidence of participation in the Holocaust by suspects including Ivan Polyukhovich. Dean's historical investigations for the SIU and the UK'S Scotland Yard helped prosecutors put five suspected Nazi collaborators on trial in the 1990's. Dean is the author of Robbing the Jews: The Confiscation of Jewish Property in the Holocaust, 1933-1945 (Cambridge University Press) and Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941-1944 (Palgrave Macmillan).
Paul Franz - Graphics Producer / Editor
Paul Franz is a former video journalist and currently the Andreas C. Dracopoulos Chair in Innovation and Creativity and the director of technology in the Ideas Lab at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington. As the lead video editor, director of photography and graphics producer, Franz collaborated closely with director Justin Kenny in the production and post production of The New Barbarianism feature documentary.
Ryan Marth - Composer/ Audio Engineer
Ryan Marth is a composer, producer and audio engineer with Dead Sound- a collective of individuals creating music for film, television and online video - based in Tacoma, Washington. Ryan's first project with director Justin Kenny was scoring and mixing the trailer for The Boy From Serniki.
Fedja Grulovic - Cinematographer
Fedja Grulovic is a veteran producer and video journalist for Reuters Television based in Belgrade, Serbia. Since joining the news agency in the 1990's, Grulovic has covered some of the world's most significant stories including wars in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, western Ukraine, Libya, Bosnia, Kosovo, the death of Nelson Mandela, the Greek financial crisis, the European migrant/refugee crisis and countless other assignments.
Risks and challenges
Fortunately, we have been aggressive on shooting as much as we can while principle individuals are still alive and of sound mind. We knew early on that our time window for gathering firsthand experiences could quickly close at any time and have planned accordingly. Our dream is to have Nathan (now 85-years-old) attend the premiere in good health wherever it may be. Our greatest challenge will be to ensure that we have our funding in place so we can press on in post production and finish a strong film as quickly as possible. Please help us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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