Our movie, SAMMY THE JOURNEY, is now complete and will soon be publicly available. So what was the genesis of this documentary? And who is Sam Harris, the subject of our movie?
It started a little over a year ago when I was deeply and joyfully involved with my own project, THE WORLD OF GLIMPSE. I had completed the book (one that took years to do) and was working on the video adaptation of it with cinematographer and film producer, Eric Cosh. At the time, I was also helping Sam Harris’ wife, Dede, with producing accompanying books to her narrative art sculptures of the Holocaust now on display at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
In a casual conversation, I told Eric about Sam Harris and the incomprehensible Nazi cruelty that he, the young Sammy – Szlamek Rzeznik, had to endure and witness as a young child. I also told Eric about how, amazingly, he is a brave, optimistic, humorous and generous person. “We should do a documentary about him,” Eric said.
“Are you sure?” I asked him. “This would have to be work done on spec.”
“It needs to be done,” said Eric. And so our journey began…
I arranged a meeting between Eric, me, and my great friends, Sam and Dede Harris. More meetings ensued and the creative process began with my interview of Sam on March 18, 2013, which Eric filmed. The interview lasted for well over three hours and just a year later, Eric and I completed SAMMY THE JOURNEY, a 90-minute documentary about this extraordinary man. It was intense work; we did everything ourselves, virtually every single aspect of its production. We honored our self-imposed deadlines, never had to wait for others to do their parts and, therefore, experienced no delays. So the movie is finally done and we are eager to share Sam’s truly inspirational story with you all.
Sam and Dede have been a joy to work with. What a bond the four of us have forged! Despite the sadness and horrors of the subject matter – the Holocaust – we have a movie that is positive and uplifting. Furthermore, all four of us managed to have fun together, when we were not entering the horrifying realities of Sam’s childhood memories. Perhaps, all of our intrinsic positivity contributed to making our joint experience joyful and memorable.
Eric and I knew Sam’s story had to be told. After all, he is one of the youngest surviving victims of the Holocaust, a larger-than-life man with a remarkable presence. Many Holocaust survivors are dying or are no longer able to tell their stories. Sam can and does – with strength and incisive memory. Yes, I had to put aside my highly imaginative, exuberant WORLD OF GLIMPSE and move into a world of unimaginable depravity, because I knew, just as Eric knew, that what Sammy had endured simply had to be told via a documentary film now. Not only had he survived; he had thrived! Now, that is remarkable!
– Ellen Palestrant