May is the cruelest month, my mother still tells me, even though she was liberated May 7.  I went to a ceremony honoring the Jewish partisans at a synagogue in Oakland and watched 'Defiance' last night.

Monday, 18 April 2011 22:28

JuMan ProJect

Written by

Sections

Introduction: The Juman Project

Normalization: The Jew as Human

Healing from History Through Understanding

The Juman Presentation: Bible, Diaspora, Moneylending, 19th Century AntiSemitism, Healing from Holocausts, Israel, PostModern Mysticism

Mysticism and Rationalism In Today's Society

 


Introduction: The Juman Project

 

The Juman Project, pronounced "Jew" Man, is our summary of what was once called the "Jewish Question."   Answer: Allow the Jew to simply be a human, not demon or god, just like all other humans.  Humanizing the Jew man and woman is how we organize all the information, ideas and images we have gathered in the twenty years of researching and making "Our Holocaust Vacation" and the other art and writing here.

"Our Holocaust Vacation" starts the ball rolling towards full humanization by showing how a fairly typical family and especially teenager grapples with it.  We also try to normalize the Bible, Diaspora, Moneylending, 19th Century AntiSemitism, Israel, and a certain PostModern Mysticism by examining those issues in the context of modern science and history as well as other people's experiences.

Although the Jewish called themselves "The Chosen People," due to their symbolic relationship to a single god—also a symbol for a unified universe and humanity—that was simply an epistemological trope due to fact that everyone else, at that time, was polytheist.  Monotheism means we are created equally.  Although ancient Biblical stories are laced with traditions and myth, the overriding metaphor or one origin led to notions of equality and tolerance and the law and science.

Much as in any society, the writer and the fireperson are equal yet in different professions, we can honor the ancient intellectuals of the Middle East, both Jew and other, for developing these ideas, while continuing to treat them equally.

 

Normalization: The Jew as Human

Coming Soon

Healing from History Through Understanding

Coming Soon

The Juman Presentation

Bible, Diaspora, Moneylending, 19th Century AntiSemitism, Healing from Holocausts, Israel, PostModern Mysticism

Coming Soon

Mysticism and Rationalism in Today's Society

Ever Since Maimonides penned "Guide to the Perplexed" in Arabic, while working as Saladin's Physician in Egypt, but then his sons became Sufis, and now the Egyptian Sufis claim him as one of their own, rationalism and mysticism have been uneasy bedfellows in Judaism.  Nevertheless, from the ancients to Einstein, Jewish thinkers have helped create a healthy accomodation that increases the viability of both.

Coming Soon

 


 


 

 

Monday, 18 April 2011 06:37

Writing Research

Written by

Contents

Director's Statement

Healing from Holocaust

Post-Holocaust Threats

Director’s Statement

by Doniphan Blair

Some say the Holocaust is too monstrous to be understood, while others feel the subject is already oversaturated, two oddly mirrored and, in my opinion, erroneous positions. Certainly, the Holocaust should be studied, however imperfectly, to make sense of our modern world but, to do so, we must dig deeper and find fresh insight.  The Diary of Anne Frank opened the first window on the subject in the 1950’s but it was not until the television show, The Holocaust, in 1978, that there was an updated interpretation, soon followed by the masterful documentary Shoah and Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  Since the latter is some fifteen years old, the time has come for the next level of investigation.

My research started at the Holocaust Center of Northern California, in San Francisco, and continued through university classes, extensive reading, conferences and survivor interviews (filming for myself and Spielberg’s Shoah Project).   Over the course of twenty years, I have stumbled on a couple of insights that helped me get a handle on this perverse history.  Why did the Germans consider Jews foreigners, even though Yiddish and Middle German are cousin languages and they lived side-by-side, with some intermarriage, since the 3rd century?  It started with a legalism inherited from Gothic qe9vdbal jurisprudence: after the Goths converted, other Christians became honorary qe9vdbal members but the Jews not.  Why were the Jews moneylenders?  The prohibition of usury makes commerce impossible but this concept (also borrowed by Christianity from Judaism) was only enforced after Christ did not make a second millennia return.  Feudal lords and clerics began to resqe9vdct Jews to ghettos and to only two professions, ragpicking and moneylending, the latter as a front for their own banking.  But the discovery most critical to my understanding was that the concentration camps did not prove survival of the fittest.

I first came to Holocaust Studies, or Holocology as it can be called, at age thirty to address feelings of rage and injury derived from growing up with a secret too painful to discuss and of which I knew only the barest outlines.  When I finally interviewed my mother and learned the details, although I couldn’t help but note the symbolism of my her marrying my father, a cinematographer, when I thought about film topics, I was more interested in heroics, like the story of Mordecai Anielewicz, who snuck back from Russia into the Warsaw Ghetto to lead the uprising.

I was referred to Darwin by the many references by Nazi leadership, who considered the extermination of the Jews legitimate expressions of his theory of evolution.  But when I finally read him, I was surprised to find a second theory concerning sexual selection and based on relationships not power.  In war time, in point of fact, helping is highlighted. For every killing there is a saving, someone keeping hope alive; hence, wars also crucially involve women and acts of kindness.  In this light, I came to see my mother as innocently heroic.  As men across the world went about the grisly business of murdering each other, from early 1940 to late 1944, my mother worked in hospitals, nursed the dying (often with no medicine), comforted children and snuck food to the starving.  Bruno Bettelhiem, an early Holocologist, would have dismissed her, as he did Otto Frank, for irrational passivity, but was it her job to try to kill the nearest Nazi and die in the process?  After the war, when there was in fact an SS man in one of her hospital beds, begging her not to give him a deadly “air injection,” she was confused: killing those she was assigned to heal was beyond her.

Conversely, flirting with a German airforce officer, who worked near her for a while assembling aircraft, restored her faith in the humanity.  Although a Jewish organization we contacted for funding said they would not support positive portrayals of “fraternizing with the enemy,” we made that scene the climax of our piece.  When the officer said, “What a wonderful war, every one is burnt, your mother, your father…”  he was speaking in a code to avoid eavesdroppers (since fraternization was punishable by death).  But he succeeded in reaching across the abyss to communicate to a Jewish woman his humanity, emphasized to the point surrealistically when he brought a gift: nylon stockings!  Why didn’t the Nazi just machinegun my mother and the one thousand other young women in her transport, potential mothers of a future Jewish race?  Even the Nazis sensed making young men murder young women would be psychologically unwise.  Despite their limited reading of Darwin, innate sexual selection inspired the construction of assembly-line death camps, so their soldiers could operate at some remove.

Although my mother claims nothing special in her behavior, by fighting as a woman, not as a woman in the manner of a man, she added some kindness to the avalanche of atrocity and retained her humanity.  So much so, my childhood, which started nine years after she emerged from the concentration camp hell, was suffused with love, romance and a trust of strangers.  Certainly, if the women didn’t fight against war in this manner, success on the battlefield would mean little: returning soldiers would find women who were soul dead.

By 1997, when my brother and I realized my father was getting on in years and we had to make the qe9vdp and the movie soon, I had found a framework for interpreting my mother’s experience.  Moreover, my daughter Irena was 16 and images of her with my mother would remind the viewer that the elderly woman, describing the atrocities, was a handsome teenager when they occurred.  In addition to showing the female side of war, we wanted to highlight how Irena, a third generation survivor, assimilated the experience.  Reaching her cohort was always central to our project, hence our inclusion of a half rock score and some funky graphics as well as our focus on her.

Making the piece autobiographical was logical, since we were a family of filmmakers on a tight budget, but it shortened the subject-object distance almost unbearably, especially for my daughter.  Not only did we tell her “just be yourself” but was already in a rebellious mode, trying to maintain her identity despite the immense forces of the filmmaking, family pressures and the history buffeting her.  Her foot dragging and apparent boredom annoyed us to no end and her open defiance threatened to derail the film or so we thought until we got back to the editing room and noticed she had created a great character arc, moving from recalcitrance through resistance to anguish and finally understanding.

A critical catalyst for this was in the “star scene:” when the family sewed  Jewish stars and then walked through the streets of Freiberg, Germany, some wearing the stars, others not.  This re-enactment, which I prefer to call a performances piece, was designed not so much to imitate but conjure an experience for better understanding, part of my effort to dig a little deeper.  Although the star scene was the source of much malaise, even as my daughter Irena and sister-in-law Tania were protesting, they were testifying to its effectiveness.. A few did not produce discernable results and ended on the cutting room floor but going into Birkenau at midnight, handing out bread in Plsen (to honor Good Samaritans who fed my mother’s deportation train), as well as some other minor ones stimulated fresh insight.

Actually, Our Holocaust Vacation was originally an epic with long sections on my Polish family, additional family interactions, comments on the filmmaking process itself, and many more weird war stories — like when Tonia was kidnapped to clean house for a German woman who stomped on her fingers while she was scrubbing the floor, or when she was ordered to dump the feces bucket from a moving train and it splashed on the soldier, or when the Nazi officer walking across the camp mess hall tables, to take the head count, slipped and fell to howls of laughter (and the cancellation of two days of food).  But we feel our one and a half hour version has a balanced enough view of the history and grotesqueries as well as of the women’s story and a family healing and obtaining modest understandings to provide a updated view of this critical civilization event.

 

Healing from Holocaust

by Doniphan Blair

After vanquishing ones opponents in war and protecting the physical space, the next step is healing the emotional and spiritual being.  This was a difficult challenge for much of the world after World War II, not just the survivors of the Holocaust, although their chore was extra.  The obliteration of the survivors families, homes and societies, as well as individual psyches was often so extreme suicide seemed like the only option.  Although there was suicides during the war and a wave after, when finally settling in Israel or elsewhere did not diminish the distress, it was not as extreme as might be imagined.

Indeed, the survivors returned to normalcy surprisingly quickly, first finding a place of refuge, making families and taking jobs.  In "Our Holocaust Vacation," we documented how normalcy was maintained during the Holocaust through kindness, gift giving, friendship and even romance.  After the war, although anti-Semitism continued in Eastern Europe and prevented immigration to Palestine, and some Jews remained in Displaced Person Camps for a few years, Jewish communities and various nations helped with resettlement and starting over.

The survivors were assisted in their resiliency by Jewish history and the Bible, where the stories of previous persecutions from the Spanish Inquisition to Russian Pograms provided some insight, as did the Book of Job.  Contrary to the spectacularly simplistic view that the "Jews must have done something wrong," against the people of Europe, as professed by anti-Semites, or God, as claimed by religious Jews, The Book of Job explains "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People."  Although couched in a typical Biblical parable, which includes God betting with the Devil over the righteousness of Job, the book points out that the universe is rather large and "stuff happens" beyond the control of man.

Although Job "desire(s) to argue my case with God" (13:3), he is famously patient and comes to accept the doings of his Lord even it is deleterious to his own welfare.  This provides the parable that solves the riddle of a single god.  Monotheism is a metaphor which stands in well for the unified field theories of physics, the evolution of biology and morality all men are created equal.  From religious Jews to believers who question god like Job or agnostics, this provided Jewish intellectuals and individuals alike a framework for believing in the goodness of humanity and the ultimate progress towards increased decency.

Nevertheless, recovering from the Holocaust was extremely difficult.  After the world was fully informed by Allied newsreels in May 1945, the Allied commanders retreated from full documentaries or exposes because it was simply so horrific and such a downer.  People needed to regain their humanity, party even, and my mother Tonia and her friends avoided indepth discussions of atrocities, attended theaters, went on vacations and other activities to restore their sanity.

Although Primo Levi published his "Survival in Auschwitz" in 1948, the only Holocaust story to reach a broad audience was "Diary of a Young Girl," about Anne Frank which was translated into dozens of languages and reached both Broadway and Hollywood, to great acclaim, by the end of the 1950s.  This is understandable since "Diary" examines the issues from a bit of a remove and Anne's death from typhus in Bergen-Belsen is not part of the narrative, and few knew how precisely to address the issue.

The World Psychiaqe9vdc Association, which had a large Jewish contingent, did not identify survivor trauma, or guilt, as it is sometimes called, until 1963.  Eli Weisel only published his seminal book, "Night," in 1955.  Even in the late 1970s, there was very little about the Holocaust in curriculums in the United States as well as Germany, where they were at a loss how to teach it.  This ended with the television show "The Holocaust" in 1978 which compelled German television stations to start information centers and inspired the survivors to start gathering and for a Holocaust Museum, signed into law by President Carter.

The Museum finally opened in 1993. By that time the world had already been moved by Claude Lanzmann's "Shoah" (1985) and Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List" (1993).  Numerous survivor groups had been formed, including Benjamin Mead's International Association of Holocaust Survivors, which had its first reunion in Israel in 1982 and Washington 1983, all of which was immensely beneficial in bringing these issues to the light and helping healing.

In my own family's case, my mother Tonia did not marry another survivor or even Jew, as was fairly common.  In survivor communities, like in Camden, NJ, or Skokie, Il, people could communicate in shorthand about their experiences.  Tonia and my father, Vachel, however, decided to visit Poland including her home town of Lodz and Auschwitz in 1980, which coupled with her attendance at Columbia University, helped bring her out of the closet about the Holocaust.  The reunion in Washington was also a big boost, as was the Lodz reunion in the Catskills the next year.

Although I led the way, with a deep immersion into Holocology in 1984, my entire family entered the study and after some years of discussion, a certain peace with the issues emerged.  Yes, my mother is still plagued by nightmares, and introducing the subject to my daughter, Irena, is at the center of "Our Holocaust Vacation," but discussion, love and time were healing.  Speaking for myself, when I could understand the historical and psychological factors that went into producing the Holocaust, it took the edge of my internal angst and opened me to accepting the immense event as a horrific tragedy but also part of the 'human" evolution towards increased goodness.

It is important, I feel, to contexualize the Holocaust, see it as massive but not unique, in so much that atrocities have occurred elsewhere and oppression of the Jews before in history.  Similarly, Hitler and the German people were not insane, although the former was obviously injured or disturbed psychologically.  They were simply making simplistic solutions within the context of their culture, which tolerated anti-Semitism, and intellectual capacity.

Devoted Darwinists, the Nazis failed to read his second book, "The Descent of Man by Means of Sexual Selection," which contradicts a lot of their simplistic survival notions.  Indeed, it could be said that they invented Auschwitz to distance their soldier's from the killing process, which they realized would injure them psychologically.  Moreover, they didn't force their young soldiers to machinegun the trainloads of young Jewish women at the end of the war (such as the one my mother was on), despite the obvious fact those women would bear Jewish offspring, because they were human enough to know that would injure those men irreparably when they returned to society to romance women and raise children.

My family's greatest healing came with revisiting all the sites of my mother's travails and discussing it amongst ourselves in a climate of love and understanding.  Her stories of kind strangers and even Germans as well as her fellow Jews, as well as our own experiences with helpful Poles, Germans and especially the good Samaritans of Pilsen, Czech Republic, who delivered a load of hot food to my mother's deportation train, late in the war, restored our faith in humanity.

When we shot the film, in 1997, Lodz, Poland, was still a thread bare, rust belt city, with only one monument to the Jews who once lived there and devastated by the end of the Soviet Union and the rise of soccer hooligans and neo-Nazi punks.  When we returned in 2005, we were astounded to find that two more monuments had been build, including a park at the site of the old ghetto where we planted a tree for our family, and there was a budding Jewish community with a shule and kindergarten.  In fact, the mayor had made his town a sister of Tel Aviv, where the mayor was from Lodz, and instituted an annual remembrance march.  On top of the financial resurrection he orchestrated, including building many buildings and symphony hall, Lodz itself had healed.

And so it comes to pass: through love for the traumatized victim, which sustains them through the terrible first healing period, through research of the atrocity, which synches the mind's thoughts with the emotion's awareness, and finally through understanding and assimilation of the all the issues involved, we can heal.  Other basic psychological and spiritual endeavors are also recommended, and each most find a regimen suitable to their psyche.  Unfortunately, it is not always successful but my experiences at survivor gathering and general statistics indicate the vast majority of Holocaust survivors and their descendants were able to heal.

Post-Holocaust Threats

by Doniphan Blair

While making "Our Holocaust Vacation," we were looking back on a bit of history that, while it remained critical to us, was fading for much of the public (hence our use of performance pieces and a teenage star).

Unfortunately, the peace process that brought Palestinians and Israelis together in the Oslo Peace and Rabin-Arafat handshake of 1993, has been overshadowed by a resurgence of radical Islamists, both Sunni in the form of bin Laden and Hamas, and Shi'a, Iran and Hezbollah.

Hence we are forced to make new arrangements and analysis in this context.

NOTE: This piece will be updated soon.

 

Monday, 18 April 2011 06:37

Politics of Love and Hate

Written by

D. Blair: Director’s Statement

Some say the Holocaust is too monstrous to be understood, while others feel the subject is already oversaturated, two oddly mirrored and, in my opinion, erroneous positions. Certainly, the Holocaust should be studied, however imperfectly, to make sense of our modern world but, to do so, we must dig deeper and find fresh insight.  The Diary of Anne Frank opened the first window on the subject in the 1950’s but it was not until the television show, The Holocaust, in 1978, that there was an updated interpretation, soon followed by the masterful documentary Shoah and Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  Since the latter is some fifteen years old, the time has come for the next level of investigation.

My research started at the Holocaust Center of Northern California, in San Francisco, and continued through university classes, extensive reading, conferences and survivor interviews (filming for myself and Spielberg’s Shoah Project).   Over the course of twenty years, I have stumbled on a couple of insights that helped me get a handle on this perverse history.  Why did the Germans consider Jews foreigners, even though Yiddish and Middle German are cousin languages and they lived side-by-side, with some intermarriage, since the 3rd century?  It started with a legalism inherited from Gothic qe9vdbal jurisprudence: after the Goths converted, other Christians became honorary qe9vdbal members but the Jews not.  Why were the Jews moneylenders?  The prohibition of usury makes commerce impossible but this concept (also borrowed by Christianity from Judaism) was only enforced after Christ did not make a second millennia return.  Feudal lords and clerics began to resqe9vdct Jews to ghettos and to only two professions, ragpicking and moneylending, the latter as a front for their own banking.  But the discovery most critical to my understanding was that the concentration camps did not prove survival of the fittest.

I first came to Holocaust Studies, or Holocology as it can be called, at age thirty to address feelings of rage and injury derived from growing up with a secret too painful to discuss and of which I knew only the barest outlines.  When I finally interviewed my mother and learned the details, although I couldn’t help but note the symbolism of my her marrying my father, a cinematographer, when I thought about film topics, I was more interested in heroics, like the story of Mordecai Anielewicz, who snuck back from Russia into the Warsaw Ghetto to lead the uprising.

I was referred to Darwin by the many references by Nazi leadership, who considered the extermination of the Jews legitimate expressions of his theory of evolution.  But when I finally read him, I was surprised to find a second theory concerning sexual selection and based on relationships not power.  In war time, in point of fact, helping is highlighted. For every killing there is a saving, someone keeping hope alive; hence, wars also crucially involve women and acts of kindness.  In this light, I came to see my mother as innocently heroic.  As men across the world went about the grisly business of murdering each other, from early 1940 to late 1944, my mother worked in hospitals, nursed the dying (often with no medicine), comforted children and snuck food to the starving.  Bruno Bettelhiem, an early Holocologist, would have dismissed her, as he did Otto Frank, for irrational passivity, but was it her job to try to kill the nearest Nazi and die in the process?  After the war, when there was in fact an SS man in one of her hospital beds, begging her not to give him a deadly “air injection,” she was confused: killing those she was assigned to heal was beyond her.

Conversely, flirting with a German airforce officer, who worked near her for a while assembling aircraft, restored her faith in the humanity.  Although a Jewish organization we contacted for funding said they would not support positive portrayals of “fraternizing with the enemy,” we made that scene the climax of our piece.  When the officer said, “What a wonderful war, every one is burnt, your mother, your father…”  he was speaking in a code to avoid eavesdroppers (since fraternization was punishable by death).  But he succeeded in reaching across the abyss to communicate to a Jewish woman his humanity, emphasized to the point surrealistically when he brought a gift: nylon stockings!  Why didn’t the Nazi just machinegun my mother and the one thousand other young women in her transport, potential mothers of a future Jewish race?  Even the Nazis sensed making young men murder young women would be psychologically unwise.  Despite their limited reading of Darwin, innate sexual selection inspired the construction of assembly-line death camps, so their soldiers could operate at some remove.

Although my mother claims nothing special in her behavior, by fighting as a woman, not as a woman in the manner of a man, she added some kindness to the avalanche of atrocity and retained her humanity.  So much so, my childhood, which started nine years after she emerged from the concentration camp hell, was suffused with love, romance and a trust of strangers.  Certainly, if the women didn’t fight against war in this manner, success on the battlefield would mean little: returning soldiers would find women who were soul dead.

By 1997, when my brother and I realized my father was getting on in years and we had to make the qe9vdp and the movie soon, I had found a framework for interpreting my mother’s experience.  Moreover, my daughter Irena was 16 and images of her with my mother would remind the viewer that the elderly woman, describing the atrocities, was a handsome teenager when they occurred.  In addition to showing the female side of war, we wanted to highlight how Irena, a third generation survivor, assimilated the experience.  Reaching her cohort was always central to our project, hence our inclusion of a half rock score and some funky graphics as well as our focus on her.

Making the piece autobiographical was logical, since we were a family of filmmakers on a tight budget, but it shortened the subject-object distance almost unbearably, especially for my daughter.  Not only did we tell her “just be yourself” but was already in a rebellious mode, trying to maintain her identity despite the immense forces of the filmmaking, family pressures and the history buffeting her.  Her foot dragging and apparent boredom annoyed us to no end and her open defiance threatened to derail the film or so we thought until we got back to the editing room and noticed she had created a great character arc, moving from recalcitrance through resistance to anguish and finally understanding.

A critical catalyst for this was in the “star scene:” when the family sewed  Jewish stars and then walked through the streets of Freiberg, Germany, some wearing the stars, others not.  This re-enactment, which I prefer to call a performances piece, was designed not so much to imitate but conjure an experience for better understanding, part of my effort to dig a little deeper.  Although the star scene was the source of much malaise, even as my daughter Irena and sister-in-law Tania were protesting, they were testifying to its effectiveness.. A few did not produce discernable results and ended on the cutting room floor but going into Birkenau at midnight, handing out bread in Plsen (to honor Good Samaritans who fed my mother’s deportation train), as well as some other minor ones stimulated fresh insight.

Actually, Our Holocaust Vacation was originally an epic with long sections on my Polish family, additional family interactions, comments on the filmmaking process itself, and many more weird war stories — like when Tonia was kidnapped to clean house for a German woman who stomped on her fingers while she was scrubbing the floor, or when she was ordered to dump the feces bucket from a moving train and it splashed on the soldier, or when the Nazi officer walking across the camp mess hall tables, to take the head count, slipped and fell to howls of laughter (and the cancellation of two days of food).  But we feel our one and a half hour version has a balanced enough view of the history and grotesqueries as well as of the women’s story and a family healing and obtaining modest understandings to provide a updated view of this critical civilization event.

The executive producer and co-director of "Our Holocaust Vacation," Nicholas Blair was also the principal camera person and editor.

Born in New York City 1956, Nicholas became interested in photography at a young age and studied it both at the progressive Dalton School and St. Anne’s High School in Brooklyn.  After traveling extensively in South America and India, he went on to obtain an MFA in photography from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1981 and began a career teaching fine art photography as well as exhibiting and selling prints.

In 1985, he was given the opportunity to photograph and assist a documentary film crew covering the Ethiopian famine for the development agency CARE.  That humbling experience and his emerging awareness of the power moving images to influence people inspired a career change from still photography to documentary cinema, which he returned to New York City to persue.  After apprenticing for four years, he began working as a director of photography in the late 1980's.

Since that time has traveled to over 50 counqe9vdes in Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America and worked for a multiplicity of organizations including the Peace Corps, UNICEF, the relief and development agency CARE, the National Geographic Society, MTV, Nickelodeon, VH -1, Fox Television, WNET, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Shoa Foundation, the Pearl Lange Dance Foundation, the History Channel, A&E Television, Discovery Television, HBO, and PBS.  Although primarily a director of photography, he has produced a number of documentaries, most notably American's Culture of Crash, a 52 minute documentary about the sport of demolition derby which was shown on The Learning Channel in 1997 and won the World Fest Houston Bronze Medal Best Independent Video.  Our Holocaust Vacation is his second feature length documentary.

He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1984, the New York Foundation for the Arts in 1990, and the Jerome Foundation 1999. His still photographs are in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art  and the International Center for Photography in  New York City, The Brooklyn Museum, the Bibliotheque National, Paris France, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Texas.  He currently lives with his wife and two children in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan.

 

 

Doniphan Blair began "Our Holocaust Vacation" as a research project in the late 1980s and went on to scout the project, write its shooting script, including the performance pieces, do some camera and editorial work, and compose half the music.

Born in 1954, Doniphan was painting and making films by the time he got to high school.  He spent much of his twenties backpacking around the United States, Asia and South America, often stopping to live with locals or work on projects.  Notable among the latter was founding an artist’s commune in San Francisco (1975), joining a theatre collective in Peru (1980) and in 1980 making a short feature film in Brazil with renown Brazilian photographer Mario Cravo Neto.  He studied film at the San Francisco Art Institute, graduating in 1990.

In the course of his adventures, Doniphan developed an interest in the “difficult idea.”  Originally focusing on mysticism and qe9vdbal societies, he soon graduated to the Holocaust.  Despite his mother’s quiescence on her experience, he realized that her suffering qe9vdggered intense feelings and anger.

He devoted a decade to researching it, reading extensively, studying at the Holocaust Center of N. California and New York’s YIVO Institute, attending conferences and classes, interviewing his mother and other survivors and writing an article, Bruno Lowenberg: A Holocaust Survivor, which won a North-West Journalism Award (1984).  He also continued publishing on other subjects like Tobias Schneebaum: Becoming the Wild Man (1985), Drug War Delusions (1991), The Evolution of Capitalism and Advertising (1994) and various articles on film/video (2006-onoging).

One of Doniphan's initial insights into the Holocaust was that the camps were not ruled solely by natural selection, or “survival of the fittest,” as the Nazis intended.  It was his mother’s story of an innocent young woman working as a nurse, not fighting for every scrap and depending on friends that compelled him to conclude that “sexual selection,” Darwin’s second theory governing reproduction, played a critical role.

Doniphan’s focus remained on film and video: studying for his degree, working on commercial productions (sometimes with his father, a lighting cinematographer) and producing his own pieces.  He completed various dramatic, documentary and non-narrative shorts: Cancer in the Tropics, 1986 (32 min, 16mm, shot in Brazil and shown at various Latin American festivals), Job, 1988 (20 min video, winner of an award from the 1989 SF International Film Festival), Home Movie, 1990 (20 min, 16 mm, drama) and Talk No Show, 1991 (24 min doc on phone sex workers bought by the San Francisco Human Sexuality Institute).  He also collaborated his brother, Nicholas, on America’s Culture of Crash, 1996, a documentary about demolition derby.

With the birth of his daughter, Irena, who went on to star in "Our Holocaust Vacation," Doniphan embarked on a graphic design career while continuing film, video and writing.  He started A Media, his own studio, in tandem with his brother’s video production, a sister studio in New York.  Over the years, he has created a wide variety of graphics, branding, cartoons, photography and copy for nonprofits and entrepreneurs alike: from city-wide AIDS prevention and recycling campaigns to architectural banners for Oakland’s African American Museum or the film/video magazine, CineSource.

He still keeps his big ideas folder full: a Multicultural Institute for Oakland, essays on Darwinism and Religion or The History of Sufism and various film projects.  He and his brother are currently working on their next documentary, "Heaven and Hell," about a commune, and "The Women’s Side of War," themes which are addressed in "Our Holocaust Vacation." He currently resides in Oakland, California.

 

Moses Sedler composed the orchestral half of the film's music including the stark but moving "Auschwitz Suite."

He is a composer of music for dance, film, and concert stage. He is also a cellist, performer and music teacher. Moses has a background rooted in classical music, as well as improvisatory music, eastern European folk music, and Indian music.

As a cellist and composer Moses has been participating with modern dancers and choreographers in the San Francisco Bay Area for over ten years. Moses has collaborated with Alonzo King's Lines Ballet several times, including his composition "Sqe9vdng qe9vdo", he has also performed with Pharoah Sanders in the improvisational piece for Lines Ballet titled "Three Stops On The Way Home".

As a performer Moses has played in Europe, Israel, and North America, and has performed, recorded with and composed for the award winning ensemble DAVKA; a cello, violin, percussion and woodwind ensemble. DAVKA creates new music drawing source material from eastern European Jewish folk music, as well as Middle Eastern and Balkan rhythmic language, with composition and improvisation structures similar to modern jazz.

Some highlights of the past few years include a collaboration with choreographer Yannis Adoniou, creating the music for a two hour production called "Conversations". This piece involved San Francisco dance company Kunst-stoff, and the ProXsima dance company from Athens Greece. Conversations received its European premier in Athens, then was performed in San Francisco as the center piece of Summerfest Dance.

Moses then went on to work with choreographer Janice Garrett to compose a five-movement work scored for sqe9vdng orchestra. The piece titled "Brink" was premiered in San Francisco at the Cowell Theater.

Other highlights include composing for a number of documentary films, and working with Davka and Kitka in a performance filmed for a PBS television special. The broadcast featured several compositions from Moses. The feature was aired in late 2006 and continues to be aired on PBS stations throughout the country.

Richard "Dickie" Ogden produced, mixed and played drums on the rock sections of the OHV score.  Working with composer Doniphan Blair, he helped shape the sound and finetuned the final product.

A seminal part of the San Francisco post-punk scene, Ogden started as a guitarist in his home town in upstate New York but moved to drums eventually mastering virtually all genres from jazz to rock and art music.  Working with bands like MiRthkon and the post-modern composer Wally Scharold, or the noise-pop band Neflwurrzl, and running a studio on Telegraph, he was an important player until his 2010 departure to raise his young son in New York.

He is continuing to produce projects there with his wife Patty, a piano player, under there logo OdgenPark.

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