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Capturing History and Hope on Film

Report: Anti-Semitic acts down, despite acts of violence in 1999

by Rick Richman

April 27, 2000 | 8:00 pm

"History holds a magical power over me," says Laura Bialis, the 26-year-old producer of "Tak for Alt: Survival of a Human Spirit," the award-winning documentary that will be shown on KCET on Tues., May 2 at 10:30 p.m. and screened at the University of Judaism's Gindi Auditorium on Thurs., May 3, at 7 p.m.

"Tak for Alt" is the story of Holocaust survivor and civil rights activist Judy Meisel, who resides in Santa Barbara, not far from where Laura Bialis grew up. The film follows Meisel as she returns to a remote Lithuanian countryside, searching for her father's grave in an abandoned Jewish cemetery outside a shtetl. After she finds it, a whole world reopens for her, and an incredible story unfolds. The camera takes us along as Meisel retraces the harrowing but hopeful steps she took as a 16-year-old girl through Poland and Denmark and eventually to liberation and the United States.

It is a remarkable story and a remarkable film, but the story behind the film is itself a cause for hope and confidence in the future. Bialis and two other students in the USC Film School (Sarah Levy and Broderick Fox) met on the first day of graduate school in the fall of 1996, each with little experience but a shared passion to use their skills to make a film that mattered.

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