• Four compelling personal stories of Holocaust survivors.



The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara and the University of California-Santa Barbara are proud to present “Video Portraits of Survival: Volume Two” – a ninety-minute program of four expressive video portraits of local residents who are survivors and refugees of the Holocaust. The program was created by UC Santa Barbara students, Professors Kwame Braun and Janet Walker, and award-winning filmmaker Renée Bergan, in association with Dr. Elizabeth Wolfson of Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara.


The films weave together emotional interviews and informal encounters with the story sharers in their homes or out in the world.  This evocative and poetic approach opens up the conventions of Holocaust documentary to a fresh, energetic expression.


“Video Portraits of Survival, Volume Two” follows on the success of Video Portraits of Survival, Volume One which premiered at last year’s SBIFF to an enthusiastic reception by 500 audience members. “Portrait of Stan Ostern,” one of the short films in Volume One, was recently recognized with a second place award in the 2006 My Hero Short Film Festival.


The films are inspired by Portraits of Survival: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond, a permanent photographic and narrative exhibition housed at Jewish Federation; by innovations in educational programming; and by contemporary research and creative activities in the areas of cinema, history, and memory to create a lasting resource for our community and for the future.


This second volume was brought into being thanks to the encouragement of Roger Durling, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and the support of Chancellor Henry Yang and Dean David Marshall of the University of California, Santa Barbara, in association with Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara. 


Responses to the Video Portraits project:


“I was thrilled to showcase Video Portraits of Survival, Volume One at the 2006 Festival; it was one of the most important films we showed.”  ~ Roger Durling, Executive Director, Santa Barbara International Film Festival


“An important resource for education and research that will influence many generations…these Video Portraits inspire us with the courage and conviction of those whose lives were forever changed by the Holocaust, while reminding us all of the need for tolerance, understanding, and the willingness to speak out against injustice.”  ~ Chancellor Henry Yang, University of California, Santa Barbara


“These stories of real people…will be used to teach students for generations to come about the most horrible consequences of bullying, prejudice and bigotry.  They are a testament to the human spirit and honor the memory of the millions who did not survive.”  ~ J. Brian Sarvis, Ed.D., Superintendent, Santa Barbara School Districts


Contact information:

Professor Janet Walker, Department of Film and Media Studies, 
University of California, Santa Barbara:  
(805) 964-8060; jwalker@filmandmedia.ucsb.edu


Portraits of Survival Program 
Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara
(805) 957-1115; info@sbjf.org

  • “Gela” by Renée Bergan

    Early in the war, Gela Baser Percal and her family sought refuge in the forest. One day while Gela and a sister were out buying provisions from a sympathetic Pole, the rest of the family was captured and shot. To survive, Gela passed herself off as a non-Jewish Pole and was sent into Germany as a slave laborer. Years later, her long-buried identity as the traumatized girl in the woods re-emerges.

  • “Juliane Heyman: Out in the World” by Kwame Braun and Janet Walker

    For three years, Juliane Heyman, her parents, and brother, cut a twisting path through western Europe, evading the Nazis until they could escape over the Pyrenees to Portugal and the U.S. Far from traumatizing her, these wartime experiences seemed to have instilled in Juliane a taste for adventure and travel.

  • “A Fugue in One Voice” by Kwame Braun and Janet Walker

    Nina Morecki experienced the full spiraling descent into the Shoah before crawling unhurt from an execution pit and fleeing into the night. She survived the war living by her wits, working for a time in a German post office, before dissembling her way across the front to the Russian side. She remains a spirited storyteller, the passion and pain of her experiences still alive.

  • “somehow, yes” by Kwame Braun and Janet Walker

    After Kristallnacht in 1938, Fred was sent with his brother to France. In a home for Jewish refugee children, Fred met Art Kern where they forged a close friendship. One expansive and gregarious, the other reserved and introspective—each man bears the burden of his survival in a different way, knowing they are among the lucky few to have survived.

Biographies of Project Creators


Project Director, Professor and Filmmaker:
Janet Walker (Ph.D., UCLA, 1987) is Professor of Film Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is also affiliated with the Women's Studies Program.  She is the recipient of grants from the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and of a 2001 Distinguished Teaching Award from UCSB.  Her essays have been published as book chapters and in journals including Screen, Signs, Wide Angle, and Camera Obscura, and she is the author or editor of Couching Resistance:  Women, Film, and Psychoanalytic Psychiatry (Minnesota University Press, 1993), Feminism and Documentary (co-edited with Diane Waldman; Minnesota University Press, 1999), and Westerns:  Films through History (Routledge, 2001).  Her primary area of specialization is documentary film, and her new book, Trauma Cinema:  Documenting Incest and the Holocaust (University of California Press, 2005), concerns the nonfiction filmic representation of catastrophic past events.  “Video Portraits of Survival, Volumes One and Two,” comprised of short, expressive portraits of local Holocaust survivors and refugees, are a direct outgrowth of her research and creative activities.


Project Co-Director, Professor and Filmmaker:  
Kwame Braun (M.F.A, New York University) teaches in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Film and Media Studies.  He is also an independent documentary filmmaker whose African videos, passing girl; riverside - An Essay on Camerawork (1997; Documentary Educational Resources) and Stageshakers!: The Ghanaian Concert Party (2001, videotape available from Indiana University Press) have screened at international ethnographic film festivals, including New York City's Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival. After a career as a scenic artist in theatre and television, he attended New York University's Graduate program of Film and Television, graduating in 1988 with a Masters of Fine Arts degree.  He has taught film and video production at Chicago's Columbia College, and at UCLA.  Since 1998, he has been a Lecturer at UCSB in the Departments of Art and Film and Media Studies, where he has developed a specialty in supervising student crews in designing and producing promotional videos for the University.


Project Associate:  
Elizabeth Wolfson (Ph.D., LCSW) was director of the Portraits of Survival program and of the Jewish Family Service of Greater Santa Barbara which (under the auspices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara) provides counseling, family life education and  social/recreational programs to the entire Santa Barbara community.She served on the faculty of Columbia University School of Social Work and was Clinical Director of Jewish Family Service of Metro West, New Jersey. Dr. Wolfson's experience with a wide range of populations has included involvement with Holocaust survivors and their families through counseling and case management and psycho-educational programs on the east coast and in California. Dr. Wolfson is the author of several professional articles and will be presenting at the 2007 International Legacy of the Holocaust Conference in Krakow, Poland on “Portraits of Survival: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond: How one small exhibit made a big difference.”


Filmmaker Renée Bergan

Award winning documentary filmmaker Renée Bergan received her degree in film from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1993 after studying cinema in Paris, France in the year 1989.  While attending UCSB, Renée received a Corwin Award for her short documentary, Persistent Discretion, a 16mm film about domestic violence.  She also received Best Cinematography for her work on a fictional short, Girl in the Window, in 1992.  Sadaa E Zan (Voices of Women), a documentary about Afghan women, received the Social Justice Award for Best Documentary at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival in 2003, as well as the Audience Award and Best Director Award in the Documentary category of the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival in 2004.  Her latest feature film, Paul Soldner: Playing With Fire is about revolutionary ceramist Paul Soldner.  Other works include: Believe Me, a 30 second PSA for SB Rape Crisis Center, Change Not Charity, a promotional video for The Fund For Santa Barbara, Blank Canvas:  Creating a New Life, a short documentary about overcoming addiction through art.  Her work in progress, Poto Mitan, is about Haitian women labor activists confronting globalization.