Floating with Walter

In memory of Walter Schaffir 1921-2016,

watler

 

The Ripple Project has been, to put it mildly, a war of attrition on my soul. During my 5 years with the project I have seen with my eyes, heard with my ears and felt in my chest the pain and loss so many have suffered. Yet, I did not start this venture because I specifically wanted to learn about pain and its’ direct effect, I wanted to explore the after-effect of the trauma. The “ripple” of trauma is what has constantly catches me off guard, I have seen it pass through time, generations, cultures and even dimensions.

In the course of my journey, exploring the creativity of my subjects as a tool to deal with pain, I have met one Nancy Gershman, a third generation painter. What’s unique about Nancy, is her artistic work in relation to personal memory, a subject I visit often. Nancy is described as a “memory artist.” Her skill helps her create specific memories for the ones who wish they had them, memories which never existed. These created memories are meant to help fill gaps in her subject’s life, a gap that due to trauma will never be otherwise filled. When I sat down with Nancy, my immediate suspicion materialized, she is a daughter of a parent exposed to a great ordeal, she is a daughter of a holocaust survivor.

Nancy is one of these “memory detectives” i’ve been meeting more and more of. “Memory detectives” are people who try to solve gaps of memory in their own mind or in others, by any means. A memory gap in a loved one is especially frustrating, because their memories are sometimes collectively ours, and when they have gaps, so do we. Here is where Walter comes in. After finding out Nancy was a daughter of a survivor, we both agreed that there is a special story to be told here. I saw Nancy’s monumental efforts in solving people’s memory gaps in parallel to the pursuit of finding the details of her father’s life.

I wanted to meet Walter and was kindly introduced by Nancy to him. I asked to shoot a video interview with him as a prep for a film about Nancy and he kindly agreed. I thought he didn’t know that my ultimate goal was to create a film that would cross reference his life with his daughter’s. But Walter was always a step ahead of me. When I spoke to him I was immediacy struck by his positive descriptions and attitude about his future, present and most surprisingly his past. only in the editing room, after hours of listening again and again I began to “feel” what Walter has seen or experienced. I can only imagine the trials and tribulation he went through at a young age, ones that I hope none of us know in a lifetime. To my constant surprise, Walter attributed that period in life as one of adventure and nostalgia. Walter had an unavoidable strength, he was speaking to me from a stage, performing an orchestrated theatrical retelling of a life. Between his numerous paintings, drawings, sculptures, writings and a meticulous soldier collection sits a man who has a story bigger than any ordinary life. Yet, he carefully chooses how to share it. He is always in control of the situation. He did share memories, drawings of his past, and even wrote a memoir; the bricks of life were seemingly there, but the mortar was magically missing. That excitement and frustration I felt was only magnified once I started thinking about Nancy growing up trying to get to know her dad. Walter took my brother (the cameraman) and I on an amazing journey of stories and music during our time with him, he left us asking for more. The further I listened to his interview the more I wanted to spend more time with him and re-ask my questions, re-shape my attempt to connect with him. I wanted to know the memory that’s in between the words. By the time I met Walter he had lost his sight, but I know he could see me, he knew what I was after and he controlled the situation from start to finish. When the day was over I realized I witness a performance, it had truth, it had drama, but before I could look for the plot holes I found myself in a living room sofa, listening to a musical concerto played by a man who could barely see.

Like in us all, the ripple of events and time passed through Walter, but unlike many, he mastered its frequency.

This is where what I do is most cruel, it takes time, it takes money and the two don’t always play well together. I missed my chance to tell the story I wanted about Walter and Nancy through the eyes of a father and daughter, but I gained the pleasure of again floating helplessly on the not so lucid river of life.

 

Liron

 

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/93754291[/vimeo]

Walter Schaffir

Walter Schaffir

Walter Schaffir

Walter Schaffir

Walter Schaffir

Walter Schaffir

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Herman Taube (1918-2014)

I know I’m writing this entry a year too late, but last Saturday I had great screening of one of our Ripple films so I’ve decided to thank a man I owe much of it to…

“You die twice, once when you pass away and once when you are forgotten.”

Deceivingly simple words, which had a life changing and profound effect on me, these are the words of poet and writer Herman Taube. Words which echo through my mind as a reflection of a past, strength of a present and hope for a future.

Herman Taube was (is) known around the jewish community in Rockville, Maryland. as the inquisitive, loving and ever curious writer and keeper of jewish stories and folklore, which one can read here. But to me the connection was more personal. My memories of Herman are through his conversations with my grandfather…

My grandfather was introduced to Herman by my uncle Yankel Ginzburg. The introduction was a natural one, Herman was a well known writer in the Maryland and DC Jewish community, my uncle a famous painter and sculpture, known very well in the area for his modern and his Judaica work. My grandfather, whose just arrived from Israel with my grandmother to settle in my uncle’s house for their golden years, found America to be a lonely place. Even though he was surrounded by family, the language barrier has created an almost impenetrable wall to society. He began to slowly drown in the daily routine of golden age and suburbia, accompanied by the growing pain of survivors’ guilt. He found solace in the typewriter and daytime TV. Smiles became less frequent. The introduction to Herman changed that…

Living at my uncle’s at the same time, I can still recall the endless chatter, the laughter, the tears and giggles I would hear coming from my grandfather’s room. Initially I would knock on the door expecting my grandmother to be there, but what I found was him chatting on the phone. “They are like teenagers,” My grandmother would say. He was on the phone with Herman.

Herman could do what so few could, he found entries into people’s soul. He’s gentle smile, inquisitive nature and incredible attentiveness is a comfort impossible to explain unless one experiences it. Yet, there is a true complex story behind the soft eyes and loving embraces. Herman has seen the darkness of men, has suffered losses that are unimaginable to me, and I’m sure to most who read this, yet he was there to listen, to smile and most importantly to WRITE. He wrote and wrote until his last day. Between the book publishing, the poems, the anecdotes and words of wisdom, he spent his time listening to others and recording their stories. He was able to look beyond the pain and anger of his personal loss to push forward with one most the important duties we have as a society and that is to learn and remember. I admire Herman for that and until this day, I’m inspired.

I also had the honor to work with Herman on the first film in The Ripple Project, where I filmed him listening to his closest friend, my grandfather, recorded memoirs. What started as an experiment in cinema and story telling became a life project.

Thank you popsi.

Liron

Herman Greets us at home for the screening

Herman Greets us at home for the screening

I  leave you with a poem published by Herman after my grandfather’s death.

TEARS…

I feel a dull ache this morning,
my friend Itzhak Ginzburg died.

Unaware of it at a tender age,
we grew up in the same city,
lived through identical wounds of war
and shared the tragedy of family loss.
Thank God – we both survived.

On polar sides of the ocean,
we established new families,
raised children and grandchildren.

We were both able-minded,
through our mutual love of words and stories,
we formed a friendship and a formidable bond.
We shared a past, concealed in a sad memory.

The grief of our unassailable misfortunes
took a tragic and heavy toll on his health.
Stubborn nightmares and memories
of those who perished persisted to haunt him.
He died in the arms of his Lida,
his saviour, friend and spouse.

I feel a dull ache this morning,
my friend Itzhak Ginzburg died.

The pain I feel this morning,
the tears I am shedding now,
aren’t for my wonderful friend.
Let us admit it ,Yitzhak is gone,
he is no longer exposed to pain,
the tears are mine; I lost a friend.

I feel helpless.. I can’t stop crying…

Herman Taube.

The "Living Room" scene

The “Living Room” scene

Shooting the Living Room scene

Shooting the Living Room scene

The "Park" scene

The “Park” scene

Make up for the "Typewriter" scene

Liron Lerman, applies make up for the “Typewriter” scene

Shooting The "Morning" scene

Shooting The “Morning” scene

"Resting" after a long shoot

Tal and Enrique, “Resting” after a long shoot

"The Mirror" scene

“The Mirror” scene

The crew

The crew

A farewell shot, after the film was completed.

Tal, Liron and Aviel; A farewell shot, after the film was completed.

Preparing for the screening, with Susie

Preparing for the screening, with wife Susie and my cousin Aviel Ginzburg

Presenting Herman with the DVD

I am presenting Herman with the DVD

binding of isaac dvd jpeg

The Binding of Isaac DVD cover

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Daniella Schiller, The Ripple Project and Liron Unreich in The New Yorker magazine

We are proud to announce a new article in The New Yorker about Daniela Schiller.
The fascinating article describes her amazing work, her incredible journey and how our film ties it together. We wish to thank Michael Specter, the writer of the article.

Reconsolidation is in late production stages and we hope to release it soon, to read more click here.

Enjoy

The New Yorker Article. Click on image to read in full

Series One Episode 3 Excerpts

 

 

“Reconsolidation” is the 3rd episode of The Ripple Project: ONE series; it begins with a clinical look into a neurological experiment as neuroscientist Dr. Daniela Schiller, labors to discover the key to rewriting fearful memories — reconsolidation. From Daniela’s research laboratory in New York she begins her personal search and returns to her native Israel to compel her elderly father to reveal his Holocaust remembrance for the first time. What follows is a haunting exploration into the nature of memory, its power, its vulnerability, its promise and its generational effect.

Read more about The Ripple Project: Onehere

 

Mirrors

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/78208977[/vimeo]

Mirrors is the debut of Marc Dennis and Liron Unriech’s collaborative project.  Mirrors, a six channel video installation based on interviews of six Holocaust survivors conducted by Dennis and filmed by Unreich. For this project the artists assembled a varied list of six living survivors to portray and traveled to their homes to interview the subjects in an effort to commemorate the survivors and create an intimate paring of collective memory and emotion through storytelling. Utilizing installation and film and emanating from the history of portraiture, Mirrors is an unprecedented unique artistic approach to the conventions of Holocaust discourse by presenting individual vignettes that together create a layered portrait of a generation of survivors. The interviews include reoccuring motifs of strength, optimism, and chance and investigate themes such as transformation, faith, and memory within the realm of an extraordinary event.

Read more about Mirros: here / read about Marc Dennis: here

 

Mirrors Concept Rendering

Series One Episode 4: Photomontage

“Photomontage” is the 4th episode of The Ripple Project: ONE series.

Holocaust survivor, Walter Schaffir, age 92, reflects back on the day Nazi brownshirts threw him into a Viennese jail at age 17. “Thinking back it is hard to really reconstruct that moment.” says Walter of that event and the two miracles that followed: his release from jail and a Kindertransport to Holland that would separate he and younger brother Kurt from their mother for an unspecified time. “I have never had any doubts that I would see her again,” adds Walter. “And we did.” Like her father and grandmother Lola, Nancy Gershman, Walter’s daughter, is also an artist. But Nancy’s art, as she describes it, “is prescriptive” and not art for art’s sake. What she has become known for is digitally – and forensically – creating memories that were, or might have been for people who wrestle emotionally with loss and regrets.

We soon follow Nancy as she assembles a photomontage for a transgender male which re-imagines what it might have been like for him to have bonded with his parents in early childhood – only this time in his preferred gender … as a little girl.

Parallel to this journey, Nancy presses her father to reconstruct his gaps in memory; gaps that spotlight Walter’s optimistic outlook on life at the expense of denial. This collision between rosy reminiscences and the darker details only leaves Nancy hungry for more.

01 Walter+Schaffir+-+Photomontage+2

 

03 Walter+Schaffir+-+Photomontage+8

04 Walter+Schaffir+-+Photomontage+3

Project Status: In early stages of production

Episode Five: Mirrors

Mirrors is the 5th episode in The Ripple Project: ONE Series.

A friend’s reflection reveals more than a looking glass.

Renowned artist and clandestine Holocaust art scholar Marc Dennis interviews survivor Dina Jacobson, whose tranquil facade betrays an incomprehensible knowledge. Set in the bucolic village of Elmira in upstate New York, Marc’s inquisitive nature and Dina’s furtive life are revealed and reflected upon through days of frenzied conversation and the knowing silence of friends. Dina is one of six survivors interviewed by Marc, each story more complex and unique than the one before…

Filmmaker Liron Unreich follows Marc, as both artist attempt to create a multi-media musuem installation based on these six interviews. A journey that will take them across the United States and the Atlantic. As each survivor shares his or hers life and precious days, the two artists try to capture an enduring portrait of survival, spirit, strength and inspiration to be shared with generations to come.

[vimeo]https://vimeo.com/94724081[/vimeo]

 

Dina Jackobson

 

 

Portrait of Holocaust survivor Dina J. by artist Marc Dennis

Portrait of Holocaust survivor Dina J. by artist Marc Dennis

Project Status: In early stages of production

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Two Ripple Project Vignettes to be screened in Jerusalem on March. 19th

The Ripple Project is excited to announce two of our Vignettes will be screened at the Mythographies conference in Jerusalem on March. 19th.

A Day at Zuccotti Park and Daniel Terna, Brooklyn, NY will be the two films included in the program.

Click the links to view the films and read more about the conference here.

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