Screenings set in several U.S. cities for film by faculty members

April 09, 2010

"No. 4 Street of Our Lady," the award-winning documentary film produced by three Penn State faculty members, has been scheduled for 11 screenings in or near major U.S. cities in the next month, and it was selected for another prestigious honor.

The hour-long film tells the remarkable, yet little-known, story of a Polish-Catholic woman who rescued 15 Jews during the Holocaust. It was produced by three faculty members in the College of Communications -- Barbara Bird, an associate professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies; Judy Maltz, a senior lecturer in the Department of Journalism; and Richie Sherman, an assistant producer in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies.

Since its world premiere in March 2009, the film has earned numerous awards as film festivals across the country and has been a much-requested film for screenings. The upcoming schedule includes:

More information about the film may be found at online and on the film’s Facebook fan page.

The release of the feature-length documentary in March 2009 culminated three years of production work that took the faculty members to Israel, Ukraine and numerous locations around the United States, where they gathered material, conducted interviews and captured dramatic moments on camera.

What motivated Francisca Halamajowa to reach out to her Jewish neighbors at the risk of her own life? What did the townspeople know or not know about what was going on in her home? What role did her children play in this rescue operation? What did her descendants, who grew up in Communist Poland, know about her past, and how did they feel about her actions? Those were some of the questions that began to intrigue the filmmakers, as they embarked on the project.

The film draws on excerpts from a diary kept by one of the survivors, Moshe Maltz, whose granddaughter is one of the filmmakers. It also incorporates testimonies from other Jews saved by Halamajowa, her descendants and former neighbors, as they reconnect on a trip back to Sokal. Powerful location shots add another rich dimension to the story, providing the backdrop as the drama unfolds.

Bird said she was initially attracted to the project after reading Maltz’s diary.

"I was completely drawn in by his account of this amazing rescue story," she said. "Another powerful element for me was the willingness of the survivors to face their difficult and tragic past, after 60 some years of silence."

For Sherman, the key challenge was finding the right visuals to bring the past alive.

"What I tried to do was draw on a palette ranging from high-definition video images to hand-processed black-and-white film in order to strike the right tone in this piece," he said.

Maltz, the granddaughter of the diarist, said that beyond her personal connection to the story, as a journalist, "what was really exciting for me in this whole process was discovering new things about a story I thought I already knew everything about. The interviews we did and the trip we took to Sokal led us to new bits of information that make the story that much richer."

"No. 4 Street of Our Lady" creates a dialogue of varying points of view, as Moshe Maltz’s written recollections and responses to events are woven together with the present-day oral memories of the remaining living survivors, as well as the handed-down stories of the Halamajowa family and testimonies of the rescuers’s former Ukrainian neighbors.

The film also makes use of old videotape, home movies, archival footage and documents found in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. Interviews with Professor Omer Bartov of Brown University, an internationally recognized scholar on Jewish life in Galicia, Amos Goldberg, an expert on Holocaust diaries, and Irena Steinfeldt, head of The Righteous Among Nations Department at Yad Vashem, provide historical and geographical context.

  • IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010