This photo shows what became of the Chandler family home and textile business. It came to house a 21st-century restaurant.
This photo shows what became of the Chandler family home and textile business. It came to house a 21st-century restaurant.

The film delves into the commonalities of all people and not a stereotypical grouping of people.

What briefly was filmed in 1938 to remember vacation travels in Poland came to circulate across the web, motivated a book and recently was expanded into a 69-minute movie to be shown virtually this month by the Sundance Film Festival.

The expressive milestones resulted from happenstance discoveries followed by determined research and connected families descended from residents of a small town, Nasielsk, where the three-minute clip of townspeople was filmed a year before Nazis decimated the town’s Jewish population.

Maurice Chandler, 97, who divides his time between Michigan and Florida, was one of the youngsters in the snippet noticed on the web by his granddaughter, Marcy Rosen of Bloomfield Hills, who recalled early family photos as she recognized her grandfather. Her observation led to vital resources for identifying the people shown so their stories could be told.

Evelyn Rosen, Maurice Chandler and Dorris Chandler
Evelyn Rosen, Maurice Chandler and Dorris Chandler

Glenn Kurtz of New York found the film — made by his late grandfather, David Kurtz — in the 2009 Florida home of his parents. The clip was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and put online as only one of the pathways Kurtz ultimately used to find the material written into Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film, published in 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Three Minutes in Poland Poster

Bianca Stigter, a Netherlands historian and cultural critic, also caught sight of the brief film while roaming the web, and she became intrigued with the title and fascinated by the lively images. She went on to direct the narration of close-ups and montages for Three Minutes — A Lengthening, which has been spotlighted in festivals on its way to theaters.

Glenn Kurtz
Glenn Kurtz

“One of the things that’s been so profound for me about this whole story is something I never imagined would happen, and that is the relationships that developed as a result of it and the connections with people,” said Kurtz, who remains close to the Chandler family and other Nasielsk families, organized descendent travel to the town and keeps attending film festivals to observe the emotional reactions of audiences to the Stigter movie. 

“I think Bianca approached the film in a spirit very similar to the one I felt in my book,” he said. “The main questions were who are these people and what happened to them as individuals even if it’s not possible in the end to gather all the information.”

Kurtz, who teaches at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University and has taught at the Interlochen Center for the Arts, had traveled widely to find authentic ancestral records. 

“It’s amazing to have my grandfather’s souvenir travel film showing on the film festival screen, and I’m amazed at how his imagery touches people in a way that’s profound,” Kurtz said. “That’s astonishing, something miraculous to me.”

Three Minutes of Poland

Finding Commonalities

Reactions to the clip and the film narrated by Helena Bonham Carter affect Kurtz most deeply as they focus on individuals, way beyond any statistics. The film delves into the commonalities of all people and not a stereotypical grouping of people.

“I wanted to find a way to make [the original film] last longer and keep these people in the present some way,” Stigter said as part of a showing at the DOC NYC, considered America’s largest documentary film festival, where she told of her immediate reaction to viewing the vacation clip.

“I wanted to pay attention to the people we see and find out as much about them as possible,” she said. “We built it up piece by piece. We used it as an archaeological tool.” 

Bianca Stigter
Bianca Stigter

Stigter, who contacted Kurtz and studied the contents of his book, made a point of visiting with those having Nasielsk heritage to help obtain the narrative information without going beyond the three-minutes of the visuals.

Some research was accomplished during a weekend stay at the Bloomfield Hills home of Evelyn Rosen, Chandler’s daughter, and Kurtz joined the group. 

“She and Glenn spent many hours interviewing my father,” said Rosen, who visited Nasielsk with her father and later with a group of 50 found through Kurtz’s research. “At one point, they interviewed me, and they interviewed my daughter. Bianca felt compelled to stretch out the film because everyone you see is so happy and carefree, and it was so wonderful to see their smiling faces.”  

While the Chandler family had a remote preview of the film before it appeared at festivals, Rosen and her daughter also went to the Toronto International Film Festival for a public viewing. 

Evelyn Rosen, Maurice Chandler and Steven Rosen
Evelyn Rosen, Maurice Chandler and Steven Rosen

“I saw it there in a polished, finished version after spending so many hours scouring with my father through the original tape trying to identify people,” Rosen said. “I appreciate what Bianca did [with what she learned].

“I thought the narration made the film impressive. To use a very well-known actress as the voice of the narration made it more suitable and palatable for a greater audience.”

Although David Kurtz left his Polish birthplace long before the Nazis came to power and died before his grandson, Glenn, was born, his memory will live on through artistic recognition. Stigter keeps him “in the present” by listing his name in her film credits for doing the camera work. 

Evelyn Rosen and Maurice Chandler
Evelyn Rosen and Maurice Chandler
Details

Three Minutes — A Lengthening can be seen from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 24, and from 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, through 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 27. $20. Glenn Kurtz and Bianca Stigter will do a Zoom Q&A after the first Jan. 24 showing. All films must be started within the allotted time, then you have five hours to finish them. bit.ly/3qxDWR3. To see a related JN story from 2014, go to bit.ly/3r6EVq4.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.