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JDC Archives Historic Films in Action

How filmmakers have utilized JDC’s historic films

Since the 1920s, JDC has documented its work, commissioning films of its relief operations and the historic circumstances to which it responded through audiovisual media. These rare films constitute unique eyewitness accounts of the diverse Jewish communities, many of them now vanished or significantly diminished, and of JDC’s work over the past century. These primary sources provide fertile ground for researchers interested in Jewish history, refugee studies, and the evolution of humanitarian aid interventions in the 20th century. JDC has sponsored screenings of archival film clips at Scholars’ Workshops and at various conferences and has screened historic films for the general public.

Not only are JDC’s historic films a valuable resource for scholars and the interested general public, but they are also of great value to documentary filmmakers across the globe. Using clips from archival films, filmmakers can add context to the stories they are telling and help those stories come alive. The following are examples of recent documentary films that have utilized film footage from the JDC Archives:

1. Ma’abarot (2019): An Israeli documentary series, which aired on Kan 11, Israel public television, about the plight of Jewish olim in the 1950s, especially those from North Africa and Middle East, who were housed in ma’abarot, temporary transit camps. Footage from the JDC historic film A Day of Deliverance was included in the documentary.

2. La Traversee du Saint Louis (2020): A French documentary on the tragic voyage of the MS St. Louis, which aired on Toute l’Historie, used footage from the JDC historic film Bound for Nowhere.

3. Harbor from the Holocaust (2020): This documentary, which aired on PBS, tells the story of Jewish refugees who fled Europe and survived the war in Shanghai. Footage from JDC’s films Humanity Calls and A Tale of Two Worlds were used in the program.

4. The Abyss (2021): This German documentary series, which will air in March 2021 on ZDF (Second German Television), documents the rise and fall of the Nazi party. The series uses footage from the JDC historic film Report on the Living in episode 10.

To encourage more projects like these, the JDC Archives has established the JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant, a grant opportunity for filmmakers for post-production, distribution, and/or JDC Archives licensing costs of a documentary film that draws on the JDC archival collections. Past awardees include IRMI, The Remembered, The Lost Crown, and Forgotten Jewels, A Haven in Havana.

The 2021 JDC Archives Documentary Film Grant is now open for applications—learn more and apply!

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Since the launch of our online database, the JDC Archives has been proud to offer the public free access to our digitized material. Our users can access records previously available only in person. Our online Text Collections have grown to 3.85 million pages, our Photo Collection to 76,000 digital images, and we have expanded our Names Index. We have also opened our Artifacts and AV Databases.

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