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Award-Winning Pre-Holocaust Film ‘Three Minutes: A Lengthening’ Screens Virtually at Teaneck International Film Festival

The annual Teaneck International Film Festival, a project of the Puffin Foundation, Ltd., now running for close to two decades, will be showing 20 documentaries and shorts over the course of one week, November 13-20. On the first three days of the festival, the films will be screened remotely to accommodate audiences throughout the U.S. The last four days will be in-person screenings, which hopefully will be sold out, as they were last year. The convenient, in-person venues are Temple Emeth on Windsor Road and the Teaneck Cinema on Cedar Lane.

Jeremy Lentz, who has served as the executive director of the Teaneck International Film Festival for almost 17 years, is excited at this year’s offerings. “This year’s theme is activism, making changes,” he said. “This is a fitting theme for a festival run by the Puffin Foundation, which reaches out to marginalized populations and is hosted in Teaneck, one of the first New Jersey communities to fully integrate its populations. Our focus this year is giving voice to those not often heard, and these films speak effectively to this theme.”

This year’s roster includes five Jewishly created and themed films including “Halleluyah,” the biography of Leonard Cohen; “Recipe for Change,” a discussion by famous figures in the entertainment world about their Jewish identities; “Aftershock” by local filmmaker Paula Eizelt (of “Queen 93” fame), about the maternal health crisis; and “Neighbors,” about growing up amidst virulent anti-Jewish sentiment in a Kurdish village.

The fifth Jewish-themed film, entitled “Three Minutes: A Lengthening” is based upon a 2014 book by writer Glenn Kurtz, now living in San Francisco. In 2009, Kurtz discovered a badly degraded three-minute film in the attic of his parents’ Florida home. The movie was shot by his grandfather David Kurtz in 1938, in the small Polish town of Nasielsk, approximately 35 miles from Warsaw, before the Holocaust. Kurtz’s grandfather was born in Poland in 1888 and emigrated to the U.S. in the 1890s. In 1938, he took his wife on a grand tour of Europe, toting his brand new Leica movie camera to record the momentous visit. The three-minute footage includes the faces of over 100 children of the town in happy poses, never imagining what was soon to overtake them.

The aging film was apparently given to Kurtz’s parents after his grandparents were deceased, and lay untouched for decades. In 2009, as Kurtz was cleaning out the attic of his parents’ Palm Gardens garage, he came across the decaying film. He quickly sent it to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. to see what they could preserve. Through the latest technology, they were able to preserve three clear minutes of images, which they then sent out on their social media platforms. Within a short time, a woman from Detroit contacted them as her father, Maurice Chandler, now 98, identified himself in the footage as well as other former neighbors from Nasielsk. Over the course of the next four years, and with the help of Chandler’s photographic memory, seven more survivors from the town were located and interviewed for their recollections.

In 2014, Kurtz, a writer by profession, wrote a book based upon his five-year research. He was assisted in his project by his father’s sister as well as his own sister, a “genealogical wizard.” Of the 3,000 Jews living in Nasielsk on December 3, 1939, when the film was taken, most of whom were closely or distantly related, only 100 survived. The majority were gassed in Treblinka in August of 1942, according to the documents found in the remains of the Warsaw Ghetto.

In 2015, a short documentary based upon Kurtz’s book was created and shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival. Director Bianca Stigter expanded the film to a 69-minute documentary entitled “Three Minutes: A Lengthening” which premiered in 2021 at the Vienna Film Festival.

The film has screened at festivals in Venice, Toronto, Colorado and Utah. It has won awards for best documentary in Atlanta and Dublin. In May 2022, the film was awarded the Inaugural Yad Vashem Award for Excellence in Holocaust Documentary Filmmaking.

In the spring of 2022, a reunion was held in the town of Nasielsk to which 100 people related to the survivors gathered from Israel, Hong Kong, the U.S., Canada and the U.K. The current mayor of the town addressed the crowd movingly. Kurtz has created a society to help preserve the history of the Jewish community in Nasielsk, and students in the area schools have just completed a newly instituted year of study of Jewish history and culture.

The Jewish Link of New Jersey is very excited to be sponsoring the showing of “Three Minutes: A Lengthening,” which will be screened virtually on Monday, November 14 at 7:30 p.m.

To sign up for individual films or the entire series go to www.teaneckfilmfestival.org

Tickets went on sale on October 10 and are selling out fast.

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