Preview screenings set for faculty member's film about daring Holocaust survivor

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A film by an award-winning Penn State faculty filmmaker is generating a buzz before its completion and alumni and friends in Philadelphia and Baltimore will have the chance to get a sneak peek at the film this spring.

Boaz Dvir’s latest PBS film, “Cojot: A Holocaust Survivor Takes History Into His Own Hands,” tells the story of Michel Cojot, a French business consultant who sets out to kill his father’s Nazi executioner, Klaus Barbie, and ends up playing a pivotal role in the 20th century’s most daring hostage-rescue operation. The film is slated to air on PBS in 2018.

“Few people get a shot at righting history,” Dvir said. “Michel got two. In 1975-76, he was catapulted twice onto the global stage. He made the most of his second chance in Entebbe.”

Dvir, an assistant professor in the College of Communications, previously previewed “Cojot” for the American Jewish Historical Society at a nearly sold-out event at the Center for Jewish History’s theater in Manhattan. He presented the project, showed 17 minutes of footage and answered questions from a moderator and the audience.

He will follow a similar format during the Philadelphia and Baltimore events on April 4 and May 3, respectively:

— The invitation-only April 4 event in Philadelphia will be hosted by Penn State alumnus Marc Brownstein, president of the advertising company that bears his family’s name (The Brownstein Group), and Mimi Barash Coppersmith, the first woman to head Penn State’s Board of Trustees.

— The Baltimore screening, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. May 3, will be conducted at Beth El Congregation, 8101 Park Heights Ave., and will be hosted by the Mark G. Loeb Center for Lifelong Learning and the Louise D. & Morton J. Macks Center for Jewish Education. 

The documentary has received international coverage from the likes of Haaretz, which is considered "Israel’s New York Times," and LUI, a large-circulation magazine in France.

Dvir recently completed production on the film. He interviewed 24 people around the world. They include Michel Cojot’s family members, Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, Operation Entebbe lead pilot Joshua Shani, French historians Vincent Duclert and Shmuel Trigano, hidden-children expert Raphaël Delpard, and bestselling British author Saul David.

Dvir’s current PBS film, “A Wing and a Prayer,” has screened around the world and recently won Best Feature Documentary at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. 

Dvir’s "Cojot" co-producers include Penn State associate professor Richie Sherman, who also served as a director of photography; University of Florida associate professor Gayle Zachmann, who also serves as the historical consultant; and Matthew Einstein, CEO of Tradition Pictures in Los Angeles. Penn State lecturer Anita Gabrosek edited a section.  

“Young people connect with Michel,” Dvir said. “They relate to his search for meaning and identity. It’s his inner-journey, more than the historical backdrop, that draws them in. They get what it means to grapple with doing the right thing.”

Last Updated March 20, 2017