Pepe Danquart’s film "Run, Boy, Run," which is based on a best-selling novel by Israeli writer Uri Orlev, will have its world premiere on Wednesday - at Warsaw's Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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There could hardly be a better place to screen a film that tells the story of eight year old Srulik, who escaped from the ghetto in 1942 and managed to elude his Nazi persecutors thanks to his extraordinary initiative, and assistance from countless Polish families.
Orlev’s book, which has been translated into 15 languages, was inspired by the story of Yoram Friedman, an Israeli who still remembers the last thing his father said to him shortly before he was murdered by the Nazis: “You must survive. You must! Find someone to teach you how to act in the non-Jewish world, how to pray and cross yourself, since that is the only way you will find shelter among the farmers. Always go to poor people, since they are more likely to help than others. But even if you forget everything, even your mother and me, never forget that you are a Jew.”
Friedman escaped from the Warsaw Ghetto hidden in a trash cart. He was wounded when a Nazi guard at the gate thrust his bayonet into the wagon, but didn't give himself away. Other Jewish children hiding out in the forest helped him to heal. Later, he found shelter with a farmer named Magda, whose husband and sons were fighting the Germans in the underground.
She taught him Christian customs. When circumstances forced Magda to send Yoram on his way, he wandered from village to village seeking work. When one of the farmers he worked for locked him up — possibly to hand him over to the Germans — his wife freed Friedman, saying, “Run, boy, run.”
Yoram Friedman moved to Israel with his wife-to-be after the war. Orlev, the son of a physician, was also born in Poland and was deported from the Warsaw Ghetto to Bergen-Belsen. After liberation, his family sent him to pre-state Israel.
Directed by Oscar-winning director Pepe Danquart, "Run, Boy, Run," is a French, German and Polish co-production. It was filmed mostly in Germany and western Poland, using mainly Polish actors, at a cost of $8.1 million.
“For some time I have been searching for a historical subject for a film that would be so deeply touching that just reading the screenplay would make people’s hearts pound," Danquart said of the film. "I found what I was looking for in Uri Orlev’s novel 'Run, Boy, Run.'” In a conversation with Agnieszka Zagner, a reporter for the weekly magazine Polityka, Orlev said, “The only way I can write about what happened during the war is through a child’s perspective. I cannot talk about it as an adult because to do that makes me feel afraid.”
The film was screened for the first time in late November to a small audience at the Cottbus Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award. It will be shown in Polish theaters beginning January 10, and will open the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on January 29.