Ryan Chartrand

Many would never expect a documentary about the Holocaust to embody any sort of positive feeling, but “As Seen Through These Eyes” is an exception.

Sondra Brown and Diana Heller, members of the congregation at Congregation Beth David who are helping with the event, believe in the film and the need for all to see it.

“‘As Seen Through These Eyes’ is different, (because) most Holocaust movies are dark movies,” Heller said. “But this movie isn’t dark; it’s very uplifting.”

Heller thinks showing the film is important because, “believe it or not, there are a lot of people that still believe the Holocaust never existed,” she said. “I was actually sitting in a church in the Midwest when the preacher told his congregation that the Holocaust never happened, and that if it did, then we deserved it.”

The documentary, which took writer/director Hilary Helstein a decade to accumulate all of the interviews, tells the stories of 12 Holocaust survivors who used art to help themselves get through the terrors that they saw and experienced.

Cayucos resident Michael Rosendale produced the film.

“This film is important because, historically, it documents with archival footage in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust,” Brown said.

“Even though it is set against the Holocaust, the strength of the film is in the artwork because that’s what the film is really about. It shows how art inspired the survivors to overcome and transcend all of the horrors that happened to them.”

Narrated by author Maya Angelou, “As Seen Through These Eyes” gives viewers a glimpse into what really went on within the camps’ walls. Some of the Jews and non-Jews who were placed inside the camps tell powerful stories of how playing music, painting and drawing helped save their lives.

“Many of these artists have become extremely respected in the art world,” Brown said. “The artwork has been put together in a traveling art show and has been shown all over the world.”

Among the interviewees is Simon Wiesenthal, who became a famous Nazi war-criminal hunter in Los Angeles before his death in 2005. Wiesenthal spoke about the awful events that occurred to him and his family, who unfortunately did not survive the Holocaust.

Another survivor profiled in the film is a gypsy who tells his tale about being a young child in the camps and seeing his family killed.

So far the film has been shown in film festivals all over the world, including those in South America, Europe, Israel and Los Angeles. The film recently won second place in the short documentary category at the Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The Sundance Channel will be airing the film later this year.

Central Coast Hadassah will present the San Luis Obispo County premiere of the film at 7 p.m. at Congregation Beth David, located at 10180 Los Osos Valley Rd.

Tickets to the viewing require a $5 donation from students and a $10 donation from community members. Following the film will be a discussion with producer Michael Rosendale and writer-director Hilary Helstein.

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