Editor's note: This story is part of the 10 on Tuesday series, which provides a fresh take on interesting university initiatives, research projects, campus happenings and more.
BRISTOL, R.I. – Would you leave your family behind and risk your life violating the laws of a foreign country to help others in desperate need? In the culminating event of the Roving Eye International Film Festival – held at Roger Williams University from Sunday, April 6, to Sunday, April 13 – this complicated question is explored in a new documentary with Rhode Island ties that tells the story of two Americans who braved death from the Nazi regime to help save Jews and refugees during World War II.
The international film festival – which will showcase more than 50 films from Japan, France, India and Spain, as well as RWU students’ own short films – is sponsored by Flickers: Rhode Island International Film Festival in partnership with Roger Williams University. Students enrolled in the University’s “Curation and Film Festival Production” course create and promote the Roving Eye Film Festival under the guidance of Flickers’ executive director and RWU adjunct professor, George T. Marshall.
The Festival’s concluding event will present a program in collaboration with the annual RWU Jewish Experience Series titled, “Private Lives, Public Actions,” featuring a screening of “Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War,” which recounts the story of the Rev. Waitstill Sharp and Martha Sharp and addresses a key human rights concern of whether to imperil oneself to save another. Following the documentary will be a discussion with the director and screenings of short films that complement the program’s theme. This event will take place on Sunday, April 13, at 2:00 p.m.
The weeklong festival joins a robust celebration of the Arts in April at Roger Williams, and will also feature panel discussions with guest filmmakers and members of the Rhode Island Film & the Television Office.
The 2014 Roving Eye International Film Festival is sponsored by The RI Film & the Television Office; Flickers; the Edwin S. Soforenko Foundation; the Helene and Bertram Bernhardt Foundation; Roger Williams University Office of the Provost; the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Communications; Hillel; and the Spiritual Life Program.
Before the festival kicks off this Sunday, April 6, get acquainted with the story behind “Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War,” and more on the Roving Eye Film Festival:
The 2013 documentary film, “The Sharps’ War,” tells the remarkable story of courage of the Rev. Waitstill Sharp and Martha Sharp, who bravely fought political and social injustice in Europe, ultimately violating laws in order to obtain exit visas for adults and children in danger of genocide at the hands of Nazis during World War II.
It was a life-threatening humanitarian effort that many had turned down – 17 others had first declined the dangerous mission requested by the Unitarian Association. Waitstill, a Unitarian minister, and Martha, a social worker, accepted the assignment, leaving their two young children behind at home in Wellesley, Mass., to travel to Czechoslovakia in 1939.
The Rhode Island connection in this documentary originates with Martha Sharp – a Providence native, who attended First Baptist Church as a young girl and graduated from Pembroke College, the coordinate women’s college of the now coeducational Brown University.
The documentary features reflective interviews with some of the people who Martha rescued as children and brought safely to America. According to the director, their perspectives, in particular, highlight the generational impact of social change, particularly its effect on them personally and their families.
For their heroism, the Sharps are two of only three Americans in all of history who have been honored in Jerusalem's Yad Vashem as “Righteous Among the Nations” for saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust.
Perhaps no one better could have told the Sharps’ story than a family member – the documentary director is their grandson, Artemis Joukowsky III, whose other film credits include producer on the documentary, “Carbon Nation” (2010), and the short film, ”The Raven” (2008).
Artemis Joukowsky III, and the Sharps’ great-granddaughters, Alexandra and Lydia Joukowsky, will participate in a discussion of their family’s legacy following the film screening.
According to festival sponsors, legendary documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has announced that he will produce the Sharps’ story as a WETA/PBS film to air in 2015.
Two other collaborations round out this inimitable international film festival. An ongoing partnership with the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, one of the largest Academy Award-qualifying short film festivals in Asia, will feature about a dozen films from Japan, Greece, Canada and the U.S. on Monday, April 7. And new this year, on Friday, April 11, the festival will present “Story Day 2014: Moving Images” – an examination of how images in feature films of all genres inform, inspire, challenge and shape society. An all-day event held at Newport’s Pell Center, Story Day includes an interactive panel of accomplished storytellers discussing the effect of imagery, and a special presentation by Danny Strong, the Emmy-winning screenwriter whose credits include “The Butler” and the upcoming “Hunger Games” two-part series finale.
- Also presented throughout the week will be a series of workshops around film, including a look into the Rhode Island International Film Festival’s film selection process, various discussions of working in the film industry, and the opportunity to view and review brand new films RIFF is considering for inclusion in the next film festival.
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