Based on a best selling Holocaust novel by Israeli author Uri Orlev, this superlative saga of courage and compassion, RUN BOY RUN, directed by Oscar-winner Pepe Danquart, tells the extraordinary true story of a young Polish boy who seeks the kindness of others in his solitary struggle to survive the Nazi occupation and keep alive his Jewish faith.
Escaping the Warsaw ghetto at the behest of his father, nine-year old Srulik – portrayed by twin child actors Andrzej and Kamil Tkacz – flees to the woods. There, he learns to hide from SS patrols and scour for food, until loneliness and the harsh onset of winter drive him back to civilization. Taken in by a kindhearted farmer’s wife, played by Elisabeth Duda, he is given shelter and a new identity. Passing himself off as Jurek, a Christian war orphan, the intrepid boy traverses the countryside from village to village, working as a farmhand under an ever-present threat of persecution. Some will help him survive and others will betray him. Just when it seems his childhood memories and identity could be lost forever, Jurek’s harrowing journey culminates in a powerhouse conclusion and postscript.
I had a opportunity to interview the real life person from which the film and the book are based on, Yoram Friedman who chatted about the exceptional performances by twin child actors, the message of the film, his feeling to have his story expose to the world, and more.
Jana – How is the feeling to have your own story on a movie?
Yoram – Amazing, exciting, and extremely moving. It is a privilege to have my own story on the big screen. Knowing that people from all over the world will see, knowing it will be legacy long after I will not be here. For my family it was a unique opportunity to see me as a child, not only hear the story but see their father and grandfather as child – it is a close as they can be to my reality.
Jana – Have you had thought that someone would get interested in your story and expose it to the world?
Yoram – Not really, I wanted my story to stay “alive” for my grandchildren and for my great-grandchildren (when I will have some) that my family will know the story even if I’m not here to tell it. I wanted to ask my daughter to write it, just a small manuscript that will stay in our family. A friend who knew my story and knew Uri Orlev convinced Uri to meet me and hear my story. We met and the rest is history.
Jana – Looking at the movie, I see you suffered a lot. Are these feelings still being a part of your life? And how much from that situation have you learnt to live your life?
Yoram – These are my life, part of who I’m – it will be forever. I live normal life, I’m now retired but I used to be a math teacher, I have my family and friends and I live full and happy life. But… I still have nightmares, almost every night, my wife tells me I scream when I sleep…. I have moments during the day that I remember; I go back in time and remember it all. But the most important thing that I have learnt from this dark period is to never give up; the power of life is the strongest power of all. I never give up, I let myself remember, I let myself be sad sometimes, but I look around me and see my wonderful family and I know I won.
Jana – What advice can you give to the young generation that didn’t go through this?
Yoram – Without sounding too philosophical… I would say that we all need to see each other as human beings – look through the religion, the race – understand that we are all the same; we want to live in peace. There will always be extremists from all sides, but with need to listen to the sane voice – live and let live. Don’t hate each other because you are not the same, it doesn’t mean that you are better – you are just different – we all are different that’s what makes us interesting.
Jana – How was the collaboration with director Pepe Danquart?
Yoram – It was excellent – although we don’t speak the same language, we connected immediately, with the help of my family and other crew members. Pepe have done a great job, a beautiful movie that stays true to reality and is showing all sides of life – the bad and the good.
Jana – Did you also collaborate with Israeli author Uri Orlev?
Yoram – Yes I did when Uri was writing the Book. As for the movie, we both came to the premiere in Warsaw. We are still in touch and updating each other about the book and movie around the world.
Jana – Is the movie loyal to your story? And if there is anything you would change it?
Yoram – It is as real as it can get with some adaptations to the big screen. I wouldn’t change a thing – I think that the fact it was done by a German director and crew – it gave it the authenticity no one else would have given it. It was not trying to be “nice” – it brought to life that true story with pain, fear , hope and triumph.
Jana – What about the young actors who played your character, how was the interaction with them?
Yoram – They twins did a wonderful job, I am so proud of them. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy task, emotionally and physically. We met few times and I enjoyed their company, I told them before that now they are also part of my family.
Jana – In your opinion, what is the message that this story will bring to the audience?
Yoram – Never give up and know that there will always be good people around you when you need them. Resourcefulness is the key word – be resourceful, you can always find a solution to any problem. Embrace life and believe in yourself.
RUN BOY RUN is launching the theatrical release here in South Florida on October 9th
Broward: Cinema Paradiso-Hollywood, The Last Picture Show in Tamarac
Palm Beach: Living Room Theaters in Boca Raton, Movies of Delray and Movies of Lake Worth