Anna Paquin: The World Premiere of The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler

March 17, 2009 by  

ic_00104-smallerAnna Paquin of True Blood was in Latvia during November and December of 2008 to film the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of the life story of Irena Sendler, the Polish born social worker credited with saving the lives of 2,500 Jewish children in the Warsaw Ghetto from the Nazi German extermination during World War II.

The world premiere of the “The Courageous Heat of Irena Sendler” will be held in downtown Fort Scott, Kansas on Wednesday, April 15, 2009 at the Liberty Theatre, 113 S. Main St. at 7 pm. Tickets for the event, which are free of charge, have been highly sought-after by the public since the announcement late last week that the event would be conducted in Fort Scott, according to Norm Conard, the director of the Lowell Milken Center and one of the founders of the student-driven “Life in a Jar” project that focuses on Sendler’s life and heroic efforts. Mr. Conrad stated there is lots of interest in this movie and that already 150 seats have been reserved for the premiere. The Irena Sendler story has been told many times drawing the attention of media outlets from around the world, however, this will be the first time that her story has been made into a feature film. Mr. Conrad states that several documentaries about the life experiences of Irena Sendler and the “Life in a Jar’ project have been have produced in Europe.

The film stars Anna Paquin as Sendler; Marcia Gay Harden as Sendler’s mother, Janina; Nathaniel Parker as Dr. Majkowski, the head of Warsaw’s Department of Health who helped Sendler obtain important resources for her mission; and Goran Visnijic as Stefan, a former university friend of Sendler who was Jewish and with whom Sendler fell in love with when she began her clandestine work in the Warsaw Ghetto.

The CBS television premiere of the Hallmark Hall of Fame production will be on Sunday, April 19 (9:00-11:00 pm, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

During the war Irena Sendler was able to move women in and out of the Warsaw Jewish Ghetto disguised as nurses working for the Warsaw’s Health Department. With the ruse of containing the spread of Typhus and Spotted Fever, Ms. Sendler and her fellow “nurses” were actually sneaking children out (with the consent of the Jewish parents) of the Ghetto by sedating them and hiding them inside boxes, suitcases and coffins as a way of saving them from deportation to death camps. Once the children were snuck out they were given new identities and placed with Polish families or in convents to protect them. Ms. Sendler kept a record of all the children’s birth names and where they were placed hidden so once the war was over the children could be reunited with their families. Unfortunately in 1943 Ms. Sendler’s deception was discovered and she was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo resulting with her feet being broken. She was scheduled to be executed but on the day of her execution she was rescued by “Zegota”, the same underground network that she worked with to save the Jewish children. By the end of the war all of the 2,500 children that she smuggled out were never betrayed or discovered by the Nazis.

Mr. Conrad stated that in commemoration for her work a group of students from Uniontown High School decided in 1999 to write and perform a dramatic stage play about Sendler for a National History Day project that year. Ever since Ms. Sendler’s story has been seen and heard globally, and the “Life in a Jar” play has been performed in the U.S. and around the world by more than 30 students from rural high schools across the country. More than 60 schools in Poland have performed similar presentations over the years. Mr. Conrad also emphasizes that:

“We freely share the story,” he said. “The past 10 years has been a passion for the students.”… “It’s a very exciting event going on in Fort Scott,” he said. “It’s a joy for the Bourbon County area, for this to occur here in Fort Scott.” A statement from the Fort Scott Area Chamber of Commerce said that Hallmark movie executives “are very excited to be having the world premiere in Fort Scott.”

Hallmark representatives are expected to attend the premiere, as well as the original and current “Life in a Jar” cast members. Before that screening, some of those cast members will also be attending the film’s industry premiere on April 13 in California, Mr. Conard said.

Doors will open at the Liberty Theatre at 6:30 p.m. with light refreshments served prior to the film’s screening which will begin at 7 pm. Seating for the event is very limited, so reservations should be made as soon as possible, a chamber statement said. The Liberty Theatre was built in the late 1800’s and has been recently remodelled to its former grandeur as an elegant, intimate and relaxing venue.

For tickets, call the Lowell Milken Center at (620) 223-9991.

SOURCE: The Fort Scott Tribune

(Photo credit: Hallmark Hall of Fame)