PBS to air local filmmaker’s ‘Violins of Hope’ documentary

Master violinmaker Amnon Weinstein holds one of the violins recovered from the Holocaust as part of the PBS documentary special, “Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust.” (Photo courtesy of Lance Shultz)

CALCUTTA — Local filmmaker Lance Shultz takes television audiences on a journey from Tel Aviv to Cleveland, Ohio, where violins salvaged from the ashes of the Holocaust perform again with the Cleveland Orchestra in honor of those who perished in the Holocaust.

“Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust,” will air nationally throughout the month of April on PBS.

The one-hour documentary, narrated by Academy Award winning actor Adrien Brody, brings to life the stories of violins that were played by musicians in the ghettos and death camps of the Holocaust. The special features Amnon Weinstein, a Tel Aviv master violin maker whose goal was to honor the memories of those who perished in the concentration camps by restoring violins from the Holocaust and having them play again in concert halls throughout the world.

The renowned Cleveland Orchestra, featuring violin virtuoso Shlomo Mintz, performs the music for the documentary, which will air on PBS-NEO Channels 45/49 (Youngstown) at 5 p.m. April 23; on WQED (Pittsburgh) at 9 p.m. April 20; and on WVIZ (Cleveland) at 9 p.m. April 23. Check local listings.

Shultz received word March 22 that “Violins of Hope” had been selected from among 5,000 submissions in more than 60 countries for the 2017 Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, one of the premiere festivals in the United States.

In addition to being submitted for Emmy Award consideration, “Violins of Hope” also won Best Documentary at the 2016 Vienna Independent Film Festival. The documentary also was selected in 2016 for the Orlando International Film Festival, the United Nations International Film Festival at Stanford University, the San Diego International Film Festival, and in 2017 for the Beverly Hills International Film Festival.

A longtime movie fan, Shultz credited the “Wizard of Oz” as being the film that captivated and inspired him to consider entertainment as a possible career choice.

“Every year, I would watch that movie,” he recalled. “There’s something about storytelling and the way it makes you feel that made me want to be a part of doing that.”

It is that feeling or emotional tie that Shultz credits for the success and embrace of “Violins of Hope.”

Narrator Adrien Brody’s family’s personal experiences during the Holocaust added another layer of emotional tie to the film, Shultz noted.

There are a lot of films relating to the Holocaust out there, Shultz acknowledged, but noted “Violins of Hope” offers a different way of telling the story — through the music, and that is something people have responded to emotionally, and that, for him, has been one of the films biggest rewards.

“When you have a chance to bring history to the forefront and if you can capture it in a way that blends with the story, it just works,” Shultz noted.

Following a 2016 screening of “Violins of Hope” at Kent State-East Liverpool Campus, it was said “Shultz’s ability to capture storytelling and history in a way that ‘works’ was not only witnessed, but felt by many of the viewers who responded emotionally to the film.”

Now through the April PBS broadcasts; the selection of the documentary by international film festivals across the globe; and its submission for Emmy Award consideration, even more viewers will have the opportunity to experience how history, storytelling and music can work through film.

Shultz is a member of the Beaver Local Board of Education.