FOUR SEASONS LODGE presents a point of view seldom considered in relation to survivors: the strength, power and optimism derived from the community of shared experience.
On the one hand, these are the principles best seen in the work of Rabbi Irving Greenberg (who holds a seat on the film's advisory board) in which, to oversimplify, the celebration of life and the mundane is seen as a renunciation of the Holocaust.
And on the other hand, the film demands that we see the survivors, the Lodgers, as something significantly more than victims.
The team behind the documentary - working in cooperation with a small network
of volunteers and educational partners - will create a set of educational
materials and lesson plans that can be used in conjunction with the film
and targeted to middle school and high school students. Additionally, the
team will make a set of links on the website intended for more advanced
study by college and graduate students working in Sociology and Philosophy.
Beyond the principles above, four factors uniquely position the project as a learning and outreach tool:
1) Oral History: over the last few decades, largely initiated by the work of the Foxfire team in the Appalachians, educators have moved to make oral history an important tool in the classroom. As multi-media presentations become more common, students may no longer be encouraged to see the value in verbal storytelling. A documentary such as "Four Seasons Lodge" opens the window to seeing the complexity, integrity and intensity of the experience of the elderly.
2) There has been a recent spike in the movement of younger Jews to reclaim some of the diaspora heritage. This is often most seen in music. The project has sparked the interest of Golem, as well as other popular bands in the burgeoning Klezmer movement. It seems likely that we will attach a DVD-extra to the project, with reflections and music by some of these younger people. In so doing, "Four Seasons Lodge" reaches out to, and bridges the gap, between the experiences of the old and the young. (It might be worth noting that interest seems to be spiking not with the children of survivors, but their grandchildren, seeking clues to the mysteries of their past. Some graduate students may wish to analyze the impact of the Holocaust on the second-and-third generation offspring of survivors.)
3) The Borscht Belt. Although the older generations, for whom the Catskills was a center of entertainment in their prime, may have a tendency towards self-denigration, younger Jews have a growing hunger for this aspect of their heritage. This fascination seems new, and sudden, but may derive from younger people looking and longing for an experience that is wholly Jewish, and one that is far from negative. With the region's old-style resorts and bungalow colonies rapidly disappearing, this is one of the last times Catskills culture can be recorded on film, providing a document of inherent value and interest.
4) As a piece of "Direct Cinema" filmmaking. The tools of media-making become more and more common, which should raise questions about who makes media, what messages are inherent, and how experience is altered or refracted by the process of shooting and editing. The characters of the Lodge are special in many ways, not least in their willing openness to share their experience, and their ability to be themselves despite the camera. Social Studies, English and Media teachers will be able to elucidate questions about the nature of narrative.
Educational Discussion Points
Screening the film will raise multiple lines of inquiry, including:
Are the Lodgers "victims?" What defines a "victim?"
How is their strength revealed?
What gives a home meaning? What defines home? What/who define family?
How could the concentration camps have been created?
What defines inalienable rights?
How does being Polish/Russian/Jewish define the experiences of the Lodgers? How do you, as a student, define your experience?
How many of the students are descendants of immigrants? What were your parents/grand-parents/great-grandparents fleeing from?
What happens to history once those who've experienced it are no longer able to tell their stories?
Does history always make sense?
Who defines happiness?
What role does nature play in our happiness? What role do friendships play?
What is "oral history?" How is it altered by the presence of cameras?
It may be worth noting that the producer of the documentary has a great deal of experience as a media educator, and as a developer of educational materials. He has taught video for the Children's Aid Society; helped students to make 'zines at community-based organizations including settlement houses; was the Director of Education at Film/Video Arts, where he managed over 30 adult education courses each semester and initiated programs for youth, and was the Director of In-Schools Programming for GLSEN, where he helped create and distribute educational materials for the award-winning documentary Out of the Past.
In addition, the director, Andrew Jacobs, a 10-year veteran of the New York Times, has also worked with interns and as a journalism educator.
Although final educational materials may not be available until near the end of the project (winter-spring of 2008), the filmmakers have been in discussion with experts in the field of Holocaust and post-war education, and more traditional Holocaust educators, including Holocaust museums in cities across the country. Several individuals have recently offered their services to develop these components, and we will soon be coordinating these efforts. Some of the final education elements will be created as DVD extras, working in tandem with museums, schools, etc.
We 're looking to build relationships with non-profits to provide educationally challenging and appropriate materials that will help students understand the survivors of of the Holocaust, and the history of the Borscht Belt, culminating in suggested lesson guides for the film.
If you have suggestions, or you're an educator who'd like to volunteer, please contact Mattthew Lavine, via mLavine@FourSeasonsMovie.org