Telling both sides of the story

Telling both sides of the story

In 1988, Debbie Goodstein made her debut film, “Voices From the Attic,” a documentary retelling her family’s experience hiding from Nazis in an attic in Poland.

She said she wanted to tell the story to honor her family members who suffered through the Holocaust.

Last year, Goodstein, a filmmaker originally from Port Washington, made a sequel, “Echoes From the Attic,” telling the story of the Polish family that hid her family and the reuniting of both families.

“They were very hard films to make because of the subject, but my family has been supportive,” Goodstein said. “I’ve gotten a good reaction to it.”

On Nov. 16, Goodstein, who now lives in Brooklyn, showed her film to over 300 people at Long Island University Post and held a discussion with her aunt, Sally Frishberg, a Holocaust survivor.

Frishberg, a central character in the film, was one of 16 people hidden in the attic in Poland.

“The event went really well,” Goodstein said. “There was some amazing feedback from the audience.”

“Voices From the Attic” won the Organization for Cinema and Audiovisual award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1989.

Interested in writing early on, Goodstein enrolled in a playwriting class, and her mentor told her it would be more realistic to write for film, so she attended Columbia film school, she said.

“My first love was always writing,” Goodstein said. “I always had the plan to write my family story as a narrative feature.”

Goodstein, who also wrote both films, said Long Island, especially Port Washington, plays a role in all of her work.

“There’s a Port Washington or Long Island inspiration in everything I do,” she said. “Those were very important years for me. I would actually like to do something that involves Long Island.”

If she were to write and direct a movie that’s based on Long Island, Goodstein said, she would make it specific to her experiences and try to show as much detail as possible.

“I like to write off of real experiences,” she said, “so it really comes down to the details more than anything.”

With 27 years separating the two films, Goodstein said, she was drawn back to the subject, even though she wanted to work on other films.

“This is a subject that always pulls me back, and I actually avoided it because I wanted to do other things besides Holocaust films,” she said. “It was hard to stay away though.”

Even though “Voices From the Attic” was a story about her family, she said, she knew almost nothing about their experience and had to learn about it first.

“I didn’t know the details of my own family’s survival, so that was a portion of the filmmaking process,” she said. “I wanted to understand the background.”

Goodstein said it took her family time to open up.

“I was younger when I made the first film, so it was shocking to me,” she said. “Even for my family after some time it was difficult, because it wasn’t talked about much. There was still so much pain. It was probably the first time it was talked about.”

 Interviewing members of the Polish family who hid her family, Goodstein said, she realized that it seemed like the first time they opened up about the story, too.

“When Poland was under a Communist rule,” she said, “everyone maintained a veil of silence. They had no reason to go back and dig so deeply into the past.”

Being able to learn the family’s story and tell it through film, Goodstein said, she felt as if it was her thank you to them.

“I wanted to do this for them, because of what was done to save our family,” she said.

The film screening at LIU Post was shown by the UJA-Federation of New York, an organization that raises money for the Jewish community, and Marilyn and Harvey Gessin and Stacy and Steven Hoffman, UJA chairpersons, contributed to the screening event.

By Stephen Romano

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