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Children of the Holocaust -- Film Considers Their "Hidden Things"

Caplan documentary opens UB Humanities Institute Spring 2007 Lecture Series

Release Date: February 7, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Award-winning filmmaker Elliot B. Caplan will open the Spring 2007 Humanities Institute Lecture Series at the University at Buffalo with his new feature-length documentary film, "Hidden Things: A Children's Story."

Caplan, professor in the UB Department of Media Study and director of the university's Center for the Moving Image, says the film addresses the experience of Jewish children during the Holocaust through an examination and understanding of the objects -- toys, clothing, family heirlooms -- that they carried with them throughout their ordeal.

The film will be screened at 4 p.m. Feb. 14 in the Screening Room of the Center for the Arts on the UB North (Amherst) Campus. It will be free of charge and open to the public

Nancy Anderson, Ph.D., associate professor in the UB Department of Visual Studies, will introduce the film.

Caplan points out that an estimated 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered in the Holocaust, most under the age of 15.

"The objects they carried with them," he says, "were their only remaining link with their life before the war and helped the children sustain their memory of parents, siblings, friends and relatives.

"In this way," Caplan says, "these objects played a critical role in helping them survive their ordeal, whether they were in concentration camps, in hiding or separated from their families.

"Emotional bonds were formed between object and the holder of that object that continue to this day," he says. "The children who survived are now elderly and represent the last living connection to one of the most tragic events in human history. Through documentation, interviews and artistry, this film captures their testimony and visually links their stories to some of the most poignant artifacts from that time."

The series will continue March 5 with a lecture by Morris Fellow Amy C. Graves, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UB Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Her topic will be "The History of our Time: A Revolutionary Moment for Propaganda."

Jonathan S. Dewald, Ph.D., SUNY Distinguished Professor in the UB Department of History, will respond to the Graves' talk and the discussion that follows will be moderated by Randy P. Schiff, Ph.D., assistant professor, UB Department of English.

Graves' areas of research and publication are 16th-century France, the history of the book and material culture, propaganda and polemics, wars of religion and historiography.

She says, "My research makes clear that the tension between today's contemporary history and journalism, as well as the problem of bias and engagement that still plagues them both, result from the pressure that the French Wars of Religion exerted on early modern European print culture."

The Wars of Religion were a series of conflicts fought from the mid-16th century between Catholics and Huguenots (members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France, historically known as the French Calvinists). They were fought for purposes of politico-religious expediency.

Graves currently is preparing a book about how, during that period in France, political and religious broadsides were turned into works of historiographical memoires. "These actually were pamphlets and political tracts that had been previously published," Graves says. "Compilers of the memoires recycled these publications, placed then in chronological order and annotated them with extensive commentary on current events.

"They were represented as describing the events of the day to contemporary readers and as a resource for posterity and future historians," she says. "While they do present contemporary history, they also were instruments of propaganda whose purpose was to further the Huguenot struggle for legitimacy."

The final lecture in the series will take place March 26 when Morris Fellow Everett Y. Zhang, assistant professor in the UB Department of Anthropology, will present a lecture titled "Life, Sacrifice and the Transformation of Chinese Socialism."

David E. Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor, UB Department of Comparative Literature, will respond to Zhang's talk and Roger V. Des Forges, professor, UB Department of History, will moderate the discussion that follows.

Zhang points out that life and individuality are valued differently in pre- and post-Mao China.

He currently is working on a book that examines the transformation of Maoist China into a society of consumer capitalism through the changes in sexuality, the body and medicine that have taken place since Deng Xiaoping pioneered "Socialism with Chinese characteristics" and Chinese economic reform, also known as a "socialist market economy."

Zhang's research interests include sexuality and medicine, the body and anti-body, subjectification and cultural psychiatry, experience and social construction of human existence, Chinese medicine, Daoist practices in contemporary China (particularly the cultivation of life), the governance of life, Chinese nationalism under globalization, citizenship making and unmaking, masculinity. He has published on these topics in the journals Body and Society, Metascience, Anthropology and Humanism and in "Gendered Modernities" (2001, Palgrave), edited by Dorothy L. Hodgson.

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