Filmmaker Keith Famie’s film is connecting with audiences and students.
About six months after its premiere, “Shoah Ambassadors,” the Holocaust documentary film directed and produced by Keith Famie, is still in the film festival circuit nationally and being shown to organizations and universities to widen the reach of the film.
The film was nominated for four Michigan Emmys. Famie and his Visionalist Entertainment Productions crew are nominated for the documentary as a whole, its directing, editing and lighting. The award ceremony takes place June 11.
Famie says it’s exciting that the Michigan Emmy committee viewed the film as important enough to garner four nominations.
“It feels good to be recognized for something you know is important work with an important, powerful message,” Famie said.
The film is a new take on telling the Holocaust story focused on educating youth about the horrors and atrocities of the genocide through ambassadors Curtis Bates, a singer-songwriter from Detroit, and Hailey Callahan of Rochester, an artist/sculpturist and graduate from Detroit-based College of Creative Studies (CCS), who tell the story through their own unique artistic expression.
Callahan’s artistic medium inspired her to recreate a train car out of stained glass to tell the story of how the trains were used to transport Jews to German death camps. Bates’ musical medium inspired him to write two rap songs in the film that help illustrate general themes of the Holocaust and, at the same time, generate interest with the younger generation.
The film made its debut on DPTV/PBS on Nov. 18, with a second airing on Dec. 12.
Highlights from the film festival circuit include being an Official Selection for the LA Documentary Film Festival, Miami Jewish Film Festival, Santa Monica International Film Festival, Austin Lift-Off Film Festival and Malibu Film Festival. It also received an Honorable Mention from the Tokyo International Short Film Festival.
In New York City on March 20, Shoah Ambassadors was featured in the SR Socially Relevant Film Festival New York. Featured Holocaust survivor Rene Lichtman, ambassador Hailey Callahan and Famie were in attendance. The film was honored with the award of Jury Special Mention.
Famie enjoys the presentations he’s able to do for university student bodies where he can engage in in-depth discussions afterward.
Famie has connected with Hillel of Metro Detroit in setting up showings at local universities. In March, Famie showed the film and spoke at University of Detroit Mercy. Famie has more showings this fall at Oakland University and Lawrence Tech.
“It’s nice when you can sit with young people who are not Jewish, some who have little knowledge of the Holocaust, and go on a journey with them. Afterward, it’s very fresh and powerful, and it really opens up a whole range of discussion points,” Famie said.
“For me, that’s the success of the film. That was the whole intention of the film. The Emmy nominations are exciting and wonderful, but it’s not the awards — it’s the impact it has on individuals who actually experience this story and the messaging from Curtis and Hailey.”
Famie continues to stay busy on other work while still touring with “Shoah Ambassadors.”
A big project includes “Detroit: The City of Hot Rods and Muscle Cars,” which features actor Tim Allen. The film is in production for June 2023. The premiere will be in support of five Michigan children’s charities, including Kids Kicking Cancer.
Famie has also been working on is “Chromosomally Enhanced: What’s Your Superpower?“ The film takes a deep dive into the world of those living and thriving with Down Syndrome. The film has been in production for two years and will be premiering at the Emagine Novi theater July 26 with a launch on PBS shortly after. The Dakota Bread Company is featured in the film, including an employee from the Jewish community.