Pinoy Documentary to Be Showcased at Tel Aviv Cinematheque
To celebrate the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between the Philippines and the Israel, the documentary film titled An Open Door: Holocaust Haven in the Philippines by Filipino filmmaker Noel Izon will premiere at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque in Israel on January 25, 2017. This was announced earlier by Neal Imperial, the Philippine ambassador to Israel.
The Message ‘An Open Door’ Wants to Relay
“Through this excellent historical documentary, we hope to celebrate and generate greater awareness of the enduring friendship between Filipinos and Jews, which even antedates the independence of both countries,” said Neal Imperial of the docu film’s screening at Tel Aviv Cinematheque. He also added that the open-door policy of former President Quezon made a huge impact on the relationship between the two countries.
An Open Door is an hour-long documentary film that tells the heartwarming story of how the Philippines, a small country, opened its doors to 1,300 Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution during the 1930s and saved them from Holocaust.
The story sounds familiar, right? It is, if you have watched Steven Spielberg‘s epic historical drama film Schindler’s List. The Academy Award–winning film features the heroic story of German businessman Oscar Schindler who rescued about 1,200 Jews during World War II by employing them in his company.
An Open Door, which will be seen by a wider audience through Tel Aviv Cinematheque, is actually the third film from Izon’s Forgotten Stories, a World War II trilogy. In the film, Holocausts survivors who sought refuge in the Philippines narrated their story how they were able to escape the mass massacre in their home and their new life in Manila.
Manuel L. Quezon, the Philippine president at the time, coordinated with the Jewish community in Manila and granted the European refugees with visa and temporary shelter in the country.
One of the refugees who migrated to the Philippines is Lotte Hershfield, who arrived in Manila when she was 7. At a young age, she was already aware of what’s happening to the world. She knew that they were being rejected in their own country. They were not allowed to attend school, they were not allowed to go anywhere, and their properties were being confiscated.
So in 1937 to 1941, the Hershfield family and many others fled to the Philippines, only to be caught in the war between the Japanese and the American-Filipino troops. Other refugees escaped to Shanghai in China, and in Sousa, Dominican Republic.
Of the 1,200 refugees who took refuge in the Philippines 70 years ago, only 40 of them who were children at the time are still alive today. Lotte Hershfield even said, “We would not be alive today if not for the Philippines. We would’ve been destroyed in the crematorium.”
With everything that they’ve gone through, the refugees can attest to how kind and hospitable Filipinos were during that difficult time of their lives. She also stated how she became friends with the Filipino children in the neighborhood and played local games such as sipa. She even learned Tagalog, one of the eight major dialects in the Philippines.
While she and other European immigrant children easily adapted to their new environment, it was different for the adults who just stayed in their close-knitted immigrant circle.
The adults never adapted to their new life, which was so different from their life in Germany. In their country, they were affluent, but suddenly they became nobodies in an unfamiliar place. But at least they were free—free to live and practice their religion.
This act of kindness and compassion shown by the Filipinos was never forgotten by Jewish refugees. They tried to return the favor by helping the country after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. Their community organized relief operation headed by Danny Pinns, son of a Jewish refugee in the Philippines.
He said, “For me, it was like coming full circle and I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like when my grandparents and mother arrived 76 years ago. My going to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan was very special. I was repaying a debt to the country that saved my family.”
How the Docu Film Got the Chance to Be Screened at Tel Aviv Cinematheque
Noel Izon, a multi-awarded Filipino filmmaker who wrote, directed, and produced the An Open Door documentary film is among the members of the panel discussion together with co-producer and humanities scholar Prof. Sharon Delmendo and Prof. Bonnie Harris, a Holocaust scholar who served as a researcher for the film.
The showing of Noel Izon’s documentary film at Tel Aviv Cinematheque is made possible through the effort of the Philippine Embassy in Israel, the National Commission for Culture and Arts, and the American Jewish Committee Asia Pacific Institute (AJC).
Earlier in 2016, besides Tel Aviv Cinematheque, An Open Door was also screened at the Cinemalaya Philippines, Berlin International Filmmakers Festival, and at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema Milan last year, which ran from November 26 to December 3, 2016, where it received three nominations including Best Film.Pinoy Documentary to Be Showcased at Tel Aviv Cinematheque by Holly