COUNTRIES: Hungary, Israel, Czech Republic
DIRECTOR: Roberta Grossman has written, produced and directed more than 45 hours of documentary television for A&E, Lifetime and the History Channel.
SUBJECT: Hannah Senesh joined a mission to rescue Hungary’s Jews, and parachuted behind enemy lines. She was captured, tortured and executed by the Nazis.
FINANCING: Through donations and online fund-raising to Katahdin, Grossman raised $1.5 million.
DISTRIB: Self-distribution. “Senesh” has played fests around the world. Theatrical release will be in January in Gotham.
HELMER COMMENTS: “After a year of negotiations, I was able to convince the Senesh family in Israel to allow me to make the film, which was a lifelong dream for me,” Grossman says. “Eitan Senesh, Hannah’s nephew, led me into this room. His grandmother Catherine Senesh had managed to save everything from the ashes of the Holocaust. There was this incredible family archive. Here were shoe boxes of 1,300 photographs, more than half of them Hannah herself. In addition, there were some 400 letters between Hannah and her mother. These letters tell us about separation, loss and worry and trying to maintain a connection during wartime. They also tell of humor. Hannah’s mother did not want her to go to Palestine. She did not want her to muck out cowsheds. Hannah was a privileged, well-educated girl whose father had been a famous playwright in Budapest. She came from this cultural milieu. So Hannah likes to rib her mother — ‘Mother, the manure trolley is a sensational contraption.’ “