Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times reflects on the making of "Four Seasons Lodge," his new documentary on a group of Holocaust survivors who spend their summers at a vacation colony in the Catskills:
Writing a newspaper article can be fairly straightforward. You ask a few questions, jot down the answers in your notebook and, if want to keep your editor happy, you deliver an 800-word article before supper time. In 2005, I wrote a short article in the Metro section of The New York Times about a community of Holocaust survivors who spend their summers at a Catskill bungalow colony, but decided I wanted to do something more. I was mesmerized by the residents of Four Seasons Lodge and thought the subjects, a gregarious, fun-loving bunch of octogenarians, deserved to be in a movie.
I never imagined it would be so hard.
Over the next three years, I raised some money, became indentured to MasterCard and American Express, and learned new words like Digibeta, B-roll and white balance. But even more challenging, I had to learn a new way of storytelling that relied less on words and more on images and sound.
Jacobs has more to say in an interview with The Jerusalem Post:
Poignant without growing maudlin, the movie also showcases the pleasures the group still enjoys, whether playing mahjong and dancing in the dining hall, or recalling old memories at the swimming pool. Taking a cue from the survivors themselves, the film is content simply for viewers to be aware of their back story, without dwelling on the past or belaboring the valor of those who got through it.
"I like to think it’s different," Jacobs says of his approach to the survivors. "I was not interested in making your classic Holocaust documentary with a talking head discussing the train to Auschwitz. I recognize that that’s very valuable and I think those films are extremely important, but these people had lives after 1945 and I was equally interested in what happened after the war. I wanted the focus to be on their lives here, the lives they created in this country and the joy in their daily lives – talking and being with friends, making a community."