Seventy-three years ago, during the Holocaust, Saul Rubinek’s parents were hidden in a one-room farmhouse in Pinczow, Poland, for more than two years by Polish farmers who didn’t have many reasons to save their lives.
Rubinek visited the Polish home with his parents 40 years later as he wrote and co-produced the documentary “So Many Miracles” to document the emotional reunion.
On Saturday, Rubinek will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the sixth annual San Luis Obispo Jewish Film Festival, which celebrates film and Jewish culture.
This year’s festival will kick off at the Palm Theatre in San Luis Obispo with a showing of “So Many Miracles” on Saturday evening following a Q&A session with Rubinek. Sunday’s lineup includes films ranging from “Yellow Stars of Tolerance,” a documentary about the preservation of yellow stars painted on synagogues in Normandy, to the animated film “An American Tail.” In addition, 109-year-old Holocaust survivor Alice Herz-Sommer tells how music saved her life in “The Lady in Number 6.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to an outstanding Jewish person whose contributions to the motion picture industry have made a difference in the pursuit of filmmaking excellence, said Lauren Bandari, executive director of the JCC Federation of San Luis Obispo, which sponsors the festival .
Rubinek is an actor, director, producer and writer, and has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 30 years. He has performed in films including “The Unforgiven,” “Nixon” and “True Romance.” And he has more than 120 television credits to his name, including “Frasier,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law.”
The more these stories are shared … the more they understand their particular place in history, and history lessons become more personal.
“So Many Miracles,” which was released in 1987, provided Rubinek a way to introduce his two children to their family history.
“People, wherever they’re from, when they have tragedy in their life, they’re introduced way too young to the subject, sometimes by circumstance, and they don’t know what to do with the story, how to contextualize it, or to understand why this tragedy existed,” Rubinek said, adding that events are repeated because the stories aren’t shared.
“There’s an otherness that’s created, and the otherness allows people to perpetuate horrible tragedies,” he said.
When each of Rubinek’s children reached the age of 14, he screened “So Many Miracles” for their class at school, using the film to inspire students to investigate their own family histories. Rubinek said he didn’t want the documentary to be used to teach Holocaust education, but rather as a way to tell a very personal story.
“Once you show a film like this to 14-year-olds, you’re showing them this great murder, drama, suicide, love affair,” he said. “It’s like a Tolstoy novel.”
Rubinek said he would ask the students if any of them believed his family history was more dramatic than theirs. When everyone raised their hands. Rubinek would tell the class that they just hadn’t asked the right questions of the right people.
He encouraged the students to interview their family members and to share their own stories — a task that which always reaped tremendously dramatic results, Rubinek said. They shared stories of victims, betrayals and perpetrators, some of which were very difficult to tell.
“The more these stories are shared, especially among young people, the more they understand their particular place in history, and history lessons become more personal,” he said.
For more information about the San Luis Obispo Jewish Film Festival, and a full schedule of events, visit www.jccslo.com/films.html.
Danielle Ames: 805-781-7902
San Luis Obispo Jewish Film Festival
7 p.m. Saturday, 10:30 a.m. Sunday
Palm Theatre, 817 Palm St., San Luis Obispo
426-5465 or www.jccslo.com/films.html