Bringing the documentary about my Uncle Eddie Vitch to Israel, was for me like finally rounding a circle. My father searched for his brother Eddie all his life, somehow sensing that he might have not perished in the Holocaust like his other 6 siblings and his parents, yet despite great search efforts in Israel, Poland, Paris, and even the US, we could not find the tip of the thread that would lead us to Eddie’s story while my father was alive.
My father died in 2004 just as the internet became more robust, exploding with information, and finally we were able to follow the thread of Eddie’s life during the war and after. So, in some ways Eddie, through VITCH keeps on living, just like my father suspected.
We held three great screening of VITCH in Israel, several interviews and received lots of interest in further screenings and more interviews. People were very moved by the story; I saw more tears during the screening in Israel than anywhere else, after all, in Israel everyone is affected one way or another by the Holocaust……everyone carries a family story of Survival, whether they come from Eastern Europe or from one of the Arab countries or born in Israel.
Eddie’s story stirred up lots of emotions, lots of discussion and much curiosity. In Israel people are inundated with movies, books and stories about the Holocaust, but our audiences commented that VITCH is an unusual story, worth telling, and one that makes you think and reflect on for a long time afterwards.
Director Sigal Bujman received lots of compliments for her excellent directing, very sensitively done, and for leaving everyone with more questions than answers. It allows the audience to stay engaged as they continue to puzzle over the mysterious story of Eddie Vitch. I can only add that the experience has left me humbled and impressed by the responses to my family’s intriguing but heartfelt story.
I lived in Buenos Aires in the 1970s for nearly 4 years. Those were memorable times in both my life and in the history of the country. In 1974, Peron died, and his wife Isabel succeeded him as president until 1976, when the military junta took over the country and she was placed under house arrest. One day I wish to make a feature film about my family’s experience in those years, especially about my father, who saved the lives of many Jews (including his own family) by helping them escape to Uruguay.
As I wandered the streets of Buenos Aires as a guest of the Jewish Film festival, I thought about those dark years. My uncle Miguel took me to see the house where I lived then. As many people who go back to their childhood homes know, this is an emotional experience. “Press the button,” Miguel said. He gave me the courage to do so, but as I spoke with the anonymous woman on the other side of the intercom, telling her that I lived in her house many years ago, and that I would like to see it again, her answer was one of suspicion and refusal. The only way to shake off the feeling of rejection was to have a cafecito and a media-luna with my beloved uncle. Why would she open the door to me, a stranger with a foreign accent?
The three screenings at the Palermo Theater was more than anything I ever expected. The audience, engaged and welcoming, warmed me with their comments and poignant questions. One was from a man named Eduardo Newark, who later posted it on our Vitch web site’s guestbook. I appreciate the audience reaction. I appreciate the conversation.
The most meaningful screening for me took place after I left, at the reconstructed AMIA building, the Jewish community center that was bombed in the 1994 terrorist attack that took the lives of 85 people.
At this time of the year the city is blanketed with the purple blossoms of the Jacaranda tree. Some of the corner cafes I remembered have been replaced by shiny Starbucks, and Wi-Fi can be found almost everywhere, including the subway. People no longer eat meat two times a day, I’m told, and the Palermo neighborhood now has areas with new names, such as Palermo-Soho and Palermo-Hollywood. Still, there is no erasing the authenticity of this city, the one lives on in my childhood memories and the one I witnessed today.
“Mi Buenos Aires Querido,” sung by Carlos Gardel, was one of my grandparents’ favorite tangos. I heard the melody while walking through the very streets Gardel sang about. Wondering, as the song says, “Cuando yo te vuelvo a ver,” when will I see you again?
Gardel singing his love song to Buenos Aires:
I recently got back from Australia where Vitch was screened at JIFF to a wonderful crowd in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. After I left it was screened four more times with strong ticket sales.
The audience was curious about Eddie Vitch’s later life in Adelaide. They asked why he chose to live there and what made him come to Australia in the first place. Two of his daughters, Lisa and Shani, were there to connect with the viewers and answer these and other personal questions.
In Brisbane the screening was an emotional event because of the large representation of the family including four of Vitch’s grandkids. Natasha, his granddaughter from Sydney, said she is learning about her grandfather from the movie. Unfortunately they never met.
Grandson Ryadan, as some of you may know, composed the music to several of the movie tracks (my favorite ones).
In the days prior to the Brisbane screening Zaimon, another grandson, was standing at a promenade adjacent to a booth that displayed prints of Vitch’s most iconic Hollywood legends. Zaimon remembers his grandfather whom he fondly called Magic Man. For three days, five hours each time (in the Brisbane heat), he handed pamphlets to passersby, advertising the upcoming screening and tirelessly talking about the film.
James, another grandson invited all his friends from Sydney. He also helped with writing press releases and reviews.
It was a family affair to remember!
Plus – it was Australia – one of the greatest places in the world (at least for me).
As we are starting our round of film festivals, I’m happy to report that the screening in Montevideo, Uruguay, was a great success. The director of the film festival said it was a small crowd as expected in the documentary genre but the response to the movie was excellent! I could not go this time but will attend the next screening events around the world, along with some of the participants in the movie and family members of Vitch,
Will keep you updated of course!
Just finished working on the book titled VITCH.
It will be sold on line and in selected stores.
It is no secret that I’m dreaming of making a feature film of Vitch – the documentary. It will be incredibly challenging for an actor to portray the complexity, charm, skills and struggles of Eddie Vitch. I’m toying with the idea of who can do it best. In an ideal world I’m sitting in a casting chair along with my amazing team and we pick the best of the best to play the one and only Vitch.
Would you join me in my quest? Please suggest who you think can play him most loyally. I’d love to hear your ideas!
Yours, Sigal Bujman
PS- Attached is the photo of my crush, Chris Pine