Phillip Maisel – an inspiring true story

August 14, 2016 by J-Wire Staff
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A filmmaker to screen his inspiring documentary about 94-year-old twin volunteers and Holocaust survivors and their continuing legacies.

jhcFor almost thirty years Phillip Maisel  has been preserving incredible stories of survival in his role as Head of the Testimonies Project at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Melbourne’s Elsternwick. Remarkably, Phillip lived through those traumas himself, witnessing the most horrific scenes imaginable. Fresh from his work in remote Indigenous communities filmmaker David Slowo has followed Phillip’s mission closely. Now, the time has come for Phillip’s own miraculous and touching story of survival to be told.

David met Phillip around ten years ago through his late grandfather at the Jewish Holocaust Centre. They were both volunteering and working next door to each other. Phillip was desperately collecting video testimonies of Melbourne’s aging population of Holocaust survivors. To date he has recorded around 1300 oral testimonies. Phillip feels he is bound by a promise he made with his friends while struggling to survive in the concentration camps in Europe to tell the world of the atrocities they witnessed during that terrible period.

Amazingly Phillip is still volunteering at least four days a week, consumed with recording oral histories – now mostly of the second and third generation impacted by the events of the Holocaust. “History is about people, we can have documents which are very, very accurate – but people’s experiences are even more important.” Phillip says.

This touching documentary recounts Phillip and his twin sister Bella’s mostly happy childhood in Vilna, Lithuania (then Poland) and their tragic separation during the dark period of the Holocaust. A miraculous re-union after the war brought them together and they haven’t left each other’s side since. “He calls me up every morning… and tells me the weather forecast,” Bella Hirshorn stated in one of her on-screen interviews. The film is also heavily focused on memory and the impact of traumatic events on Holocaust survivors.

Just like her brother, Bella volunteers too. She is a guide at the Australian Jewish Museum – driving there herself two days a week. “It’s an absolute privilege to record and share Phillip and Bella’s story, they are so inspirational. Not only in what they have endured in the past but also in the way they continue to contribute to their community today.” David said.

With production and post production almost complete a special preview screening will take place at the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Elsternwick. A panel discussion and Q&A will conclude the event with Phillip Maisel, Bella Hirshorn, David Slowo and Dr Noah Shenker from the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (Monash University) discussing the film and the impact of recording oral histories and survivor testimonies.

The short documentary Not Without You will screen on September 4th 2016 at 3pm at 13-15 Selwyn St, Elsternwick.



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