Faye Shul­man with rifle, cour­tesy of the author

I have spent the past two decades of my career telling the sto­ries of inspir­ing and coura­geous indi­vid­u­als and move­ments, whose life’s works and actions have shift­ed the course of his­to­ry. And this film, Four Win­ters, is on so many fronts the most inspir­ing and fierce­ly impact­ful film that I have ever worked on. The Par­ti­sans’ sto­ries need to heard. This his­to­ry is not only riv­et­ing but pro­vides an essen­tial rev­e­la­tion about the stub­born trope of Jew­ish pas­siv­i­ty dur­ing the Holo­caust. Four Win­ters allows for the par­ti­sans them­selves to tell their sto­ry, in an almost col­lec­tive mem­oir that stirs one’s heart, mind, and soul. I want­ed to cre­ate a film that allowed the par­ti­sans to reveal their truths, humor, pain, sor­row, regret, and coura­geous acts of hero­ism. And in this spe­cial last telling of their sto­ries, we have pro­vid­ed them this opportunity.

As an art activist, it is my inten­tion to tell sto­ries that inspire peo­ple to find their own strength in the face of great chal­lenges and adver­si­ty. To step out and stand up, to find one’s voice, cre­ate the art – be it paint, the­atre, music – and to rise up against big­otry, hate, and bru­tal­i­ty, to ful­fill each of our own jour­neys in help­ing to heal the world.

As a young read­er, I was intro­duced to the Holo­caust through the diary of Anne Frank. This book had a tremen­dous impact on me as a young per­son. Her per­son­al jour­nal entries told a sto­ry of an inno­cent girl who was, for a while, shel­tered by right­eous non-Jews from the mur­der­ous killing machine of Hitler’s armies; leav­ing my ado­les­cent mind to won­der, who would my right­eous non-Jews be, should some­one come for me and my fam­i­ly? And where would I hide? I recall com­fort­ing myself with the well-known cel­lar of our fam­i­ly’s clos­est friends – hop­ing that this would be my safe haven, should light­ning strike – whilst also want­i­ng to build a squad of the neigh­bor­hood kids to flee into the woods and fight back, inspired by fairy­tale ref­er­ences that I could draw upon: the por­tals to Nar­nia, Robin­son Cru­soe’s escapades, the brav­ery of the Lost Boys of Peter and Wendy’s Nev­er­land. It was decades lat­er that I learned of the Par­ti­sans, and all that I had con­jured to com­fort my ado­les­cent heart was opened up to reveal an oppor­tu­ni­ty to not only explore but to unrav­el the deep and unan­swered ques­tions of my child­hood: Did the Jew­ish peo­ple fight back? How did they escape? Where did they hide? And how did they sur­vive against the steely might of the Nazi war machine deter­mined to devour their lives?

After my own dis­cov­ery of the par­ti­san sto­ry – that over 25,000-plus Jew­ish par­ti­sans fought back against Hitler and his col­lab­o­ra­tors – I was heart­ened to learn of these brave teens who fought back. I delved deeply into the many extra­or­di­nary mem­oirs that were pub­lished by those who lived this his­to­ry, as well as the bril­liant schol­ar­ly works on the sub­ject, each a light­house unto itself, which I leaned into over and again as the film evolved.

These mem­oirs were bea­cons in my work, guid­ing my inspi­ra­tion in devel­op­ing the inter­view ques­tions and writ­ing the script for Four Win­ters. Through their inno­cence (very much like Anne Frank) and self-deter­mi­na­tion – which ulti­mate­ly led them on the path to becom­ing par­ti­sans – I under­stood that now I had a new por­tal, a pow­er­ful and impor­tant lens through which to tell this his­to­ry. Ulti­mate­ly, in a world that had turned upside-down, I became pro­found­ly inspired by the hero­ism, grit, and human­i­ty of every partisan.

The Defi­ant: A True Sto­ry of Escape, Sur­vival and Resis­tance by Shalom Yoran

Shalom Yoran’s mem­oir The Defi­ant was the piv­otal mem­oir in my research. Not only did Shalom become a cher­ished friend to me and the doc­u­men­tary, he was also in many ways a mentor.

Rather Die Fight­ing: A Mem­oir of World War ll by Frank Blaich­man

A stun­ning mem­oir that revealed not only the acts of the par­ti­sans them­selves but in star­tling detail tells the sto­ry of sab­o­tage and resis­tance against all odds. Frank is fea­tured in our film.

A young teenage girl with her cam­era and fur coat defied the Nazis and took pho­tographs which are fea­tured in our film, as well as Faye Schul­man herself.

Indeli­ble Shad­ows: Film and the Holo­caust by Annette Insdorf 

This pow­er­ful book bears a dif­fer­ent kind of wit­ness by inves­ti­gat­ing the cin­e­mat­ic medi­um through which we tell Holo­caust sto­ries. Sto­ries which explore mem­o­ry and the vast archives of film and pho­tographs that remain as indeli­ble marks through which film­mak­ers strive to nav­i­gate with flu­en­cy and accuracy.

Mintz’s work focus­es on nar­ra­tives of brav­ery and resis­tance against unimag­in­able odds. She has been on the pro­duc­ing teams for films which have been short­list­ed for the Acad­e­my Awards, have pre­miered at Cannes, Sun­dance and TriBeCa, and won Emmy, Peabody and fes­ti­val awards. Her films can be seen on HBO, PBS, Amer­i­can Mas­ters, NET­FLIX, Ama­zon, and are shown on col­lege cam­pus­es across the coun­try. She has taught sem­i­nars and work­shops world­wide, and has held an adjunct fac­ul­ty posi­tion at LIU in NYC. Mintz has been a fea­tured keynote and guest speak­er for engage­ments in both the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. Mintz is an award-win­ning artist and accom­plished mul­ti-grant recip­i­ent for her work in visu­al arts and doc­u­men­tary film.