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The Mendel Beilis case

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Parents' origins and making a film about the Mendel Beilis case
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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I don't know exactly where either one of my parents came from. I know that my mother came from a town called Slutsk. My father came from a town near Chernobyl which is now the Ukraine. At the time it was Austria/Hungary. And in the case of Slutsk- at that time it was part of Poland but it's now part of Belorussia. I would like and do intend to go back to both areas to find out more, and maybe even to find the house where they each were brought up which is not to say I haven't been back to- to that part of the world. I took my son, your brother, Phillip, a couple of years ago to Kiev, to, to make a film about a piece of- a major piece of anti-Semitism. That is the case of Mendel Beilis who was brought to trial in 1913 having endured two years of prison while the government tried to fix a case against him. The case that they tried to fix was the false accusation that has been going on now for some 800 years, totally false, that Jews killed Christian children to take their blood to mix it with Matzos to celebrate Passover. I mean- as ridiculous as that sound is- as that accusation is, people have believed it through the centuries. Martin Luther, the famous originator of Protestantism, was in his older age an ardent anti-Semite and he saw to it that at least two Jews were brought to trial and executed on these false charges. So it's important that the world get to know that this charge is totally false and so I'm making a film of the Mendel Beilis case. A little difficult for me to do because it took place so long ago but there are important remnants of it. In fact, one of the most important is a film that has been made by the Hamas that claims that Jews do this and it is such an effective piece of propaganda, though totally based on untruth, that millions of people now are looking at this film and they can get it through the satellite so I assume that anyone in the world can, can get this film. I have a copy of it myself and that is another reason why I want to make this film. Certainly, having endured- endured a great deal of anti-Semitism myself and having heard the story of the Mendel Beilis case when I was a child, I have a personal interest in setting the facts straight.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Rebekah Maysles Sara Maysles Tamara Tracz

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Slutsk, Chernobyl, Ukraine, Austria-Hungary, Poland, Belarus, Kiev, Passover, Hamas, Menahem Mendel Beilis

Duration: 3 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008