The son of the main character will discuss this true story of Holocaust survival on July 18.
A chance conversation between two vacationers at a Florida resort some six years ago led to the development of an award-winning film about a Polish girl who concealed her Jewish identity, toiled through grueling domestic work and braved the Nazi onslaught.
Had COVID not stopped film distribution, theater audiences would have seen My Name Is Sara, a docudrama which begins in the preteen years of the late Sara Guralnik Shapiro, mother of locally based real estate developer and investor Mickey Shapiro.
The film was at the suggestion of hedge fund owner Andrew Intrater, who shared executive production and funding commitments with Mickey Shapiro after the two exchanged personal history about their parents as Holocaust survivors, established a growing friendship and reached out to Intrater acquaintances in the film industry.
The movie, first introduced digitally by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., last March, will be shown and discussed by Mickey Shapiro in another digital program offered by the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.
My Name Is Sara can be seen on demand July 15-18 with a live discussion at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 18. Also appearing in the presentation will be director Steven Oritt (American Native, Accidental Climber) with questions posed by Detroit Free Press columnist Nancy Kaffer.
“I want to make sure this story gets told, especially today with what’s going on in the world [experiencing growing antisemitism],” said Mickey Shapiro, an 18-year executive board member of Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation, a former board member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as appointed by President George W. Bush, a supporter of the Holocaust Memorial Center and participant with Congregation Beth Ahm, where his parents belonged.
“What’s happening is so very disturbing and so very scary. This movie is timed perfectly and not made to make money. Let people be aware that this did happen and could happen again.”
Shapiro went to Poland about five times during the almost two years of filmmaking there. He was very much involved with actual production — from choosing the cast to making decisions about distribution.
“Making this film made me stronger,” he said. “I learned that movie-making is a very tough business.”
Shapiro visited the areas where his parents had lived. Both Sara (1930-2018) and Asa (1922-2017) were from the town of Korets, part of Poland before becoming part of Ukraine. Asa was in a Russian labor camp before being conscripted into the Russian Army. They married after returning to Korets to find most of their families had been murdered by the Nazis.
Mickey was born in a displaced persons camp in Germany after the war and was 2 years old when his parents came to America. Asa worked hard as he learned English and established a business career through ownership of ASA Builders Supply Company and ASA Cabinet Corporation.
Sara and Asa gave their testimonies to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the USC (University of Southern California) Shoah Foundation. Mickey named the lobby of the foundation headquarters in honor of his parents.
“Andrew [who had worked on videos and short films with our director] heard the story of my parents, met my mother and said he wanted to do a movie,” Mickey recalled. “I said I really didn’t want to, but he convinced me. It’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Shapiro had learned about his mother’s experiences over time.
“Survivors would have other survivors come and visit, and I got to sit at the table and listen to all the stories,” said Shapiro, founder and chairman of the M. Shapiro Real Estate Group and co-founder of Lautrec Limited. “My mother was not verbal about her story, but eventually, over the years, things came out. She would tell the story but not the whole story.
“She would say, ‘What happened to me you would never want to know,’ and she left it at that. We had heard about 80% of it, and the rest came later. My mother’s story came from her.”
The film has been in festivals in various countries and earned awards during 2019. These include the Grand Prix Award and Best Actress Award for Zuzanna Surowy (in the role of Sara) at the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, Centenary Award Nomination for the Best Debut Feature Film at the International Film Festival of India and the Golden Castle & Arturo Award winner at the Castellinaria Youth Film Festival.
“Making this film gave me a new connection to my mother,” Shapiro said. “You can hear stories, but when you see them on film, it’s so real and true. This film really is about a young girl surviving and what it took to survive.”
My Name Is Sara can be seen digitally on-demand July 15-18 with the live discussion at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 18. To register for the free programming, go to holocaustcenter.org.