Nancy Spielberg Films Soar Above & Beyond
JERUSALEM, Israel -- October is a big month for the Spielberg family of filmmakers.
Steven Spielberg's latest, "Bridge of Spies," is drawing rave reviews as it premieres across the country, and Steven's sister Nancy has also received acclaim for a documentary she produced called "Above and Beyond." The film, about American pilots who were called at the last minute to form the backbone of the fledging Israeli Air Force during the War of Independence in 1948, is out on DVD this month.
With the Old City of Jerusalem as a backdrop, Nancy Spielberg recently sat down with CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell to talk about the success of "Above and Beyond," as well as other important projects in the works.
She believes the film strikes a chord because people wonder why these war-weary Jewish Americans would turn around immediately and fight in another country's conflict for survival.
"You know, they saw the survivors coming out of the [Nazi death] camps, coming into Israel, which was newly established as a state; Israel was attacked on all fronts in 1948 by all the surrounding countries," Spielberg explained. "And I think they felt this was part of their duty from World War II to secure not just the release from the camps, but their tour, their trip home."
She worried about the reaction in Israel to an American-produced film about American pilots, but she says Israelis were "emotional and very, very grateful." In fact, the commander of the Israeli Air Force would like to see the film become part of training for Israeli pilots. "Above and Beyond" may also become a Hollywood feature film.
Spielberg is currently producing another emotionally powerful film at the urging of "Above and Beyond" director Roberta Grossman.
It is based on a book called, Who Will Write Our History? about the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto in World War II Poland. They knew they would probably die at the hands of the Nazis, but they worked feverishly to produce a record of their lives as the Nazis closed in on them.
"They said, 'if we do not collect and write our histories, our history will be written by the Germans and we will no longer exist.' And they gathered up diaries and they wrote journals and they had children write essays, and they had poems and recipes and every aspect of life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto. And then they wrote their last will and testimonies and they buried them in milk cans and tin boxes, literally as the Germans were pounding on the door," she said.
Only three people who were aware of the records survived to help authorities sift through the rubble of the Warsaw Ghetto. But two of the collections were unearthed after the war. "It's like having 50 Anne Frank diaries," Spielberg said.
She's also working on a more upbeat sports film -- a kind of David and Goliath story -- about an Israeli team's basketball victory over the mighty Soviet Union in 1977.
Check out Chris Mitchell's interview with Nancy Spielberg, including a cameo appearance by one of the beasts of Jerusalem!