Kartemquin’s Gordon Quinn directs doc based on Howard Reich’s “Prisoner of Her Past” Trib series

Kartemquin Films is teaming with Tribune music critic Howard Reich to document the life of Reich’s mother, Holocaust survivor Sonia Reich.

Howard Reich approached Kartemquin a year ago about adapting his 2003 Trib series, “Prisoner of Her Past,” into a documentary of the same name.

“There was some resistance at first because of the subject matter of the Holocaust,” said Kartemquin development director Joanna Rudnick, who is producing “Prisoner of Her Past” with Reich.

“But Howard was framing it in a way that hadn’t been told, the way he gets into history starting in the present and looking backwards,” Rudnick said. “We saw that his sensibilities are a good fit for Kartemquin.”

Kartemquin president Gordon Quinn is directing “Prisoner of Her Past.” Founding partner Jerry Blumenthal is editing.

Sonia Reich was 11 years old when Germany occupied her home village of Dubno?then in Poland, now part of Ukraine. Sonia fled into the wilderness and survived the war on her own and with help from strangers. Nazis killed her family along with most of Dubno’s Jewish population. Sonia immigrated to the U.S. in 1947, eventually settled in Skokie and raised a family.

In 2001 Sonia began showing signs of late onset post-traumatic stress disorder, re-experiencing the catastrophic events of her childhood and losing the ability to distinguish between traumatic memories and her present-day life.

Howard Reich went to Dubno in 2003 to reconstruct the time that Sonia was unable to communicate to him. The first trip became the Tribune series. Kartemquin returned with him again last November, in a trip that ended days before Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. This time they were accompanied by Sonia’s cousin Leon, also a child Holocaust survivor, and Leon’s son Piotr.

Rudnick makes directorial bow with personal story

Joanna Rudnick is also developing her directorial debut doc, “In the Family,” a Kartemquin production to be executive produced by Gordon Quinn.

The doc is based on her personal story about testing positive for the BRCA mutation, which carries high levels of risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

“We’ll do it through my point of view, and also follow other women through the genetic testing process,” Rudnick said. “The mutation doesn’t affect only the individual, but the whole family. It brings families together and divides them.”

“We’ll look at the social and moral and legal dimensions that go along with having this information,” Rudnick continued. “What happens when you take information from the Human Genome Project and put it out there?how far will this go when we can predict our medical future?”

The filmmakers were preparing to conduct their first interviews this April with Sonia Reich and staff of the Glen Oaks Nursing Home where she lives.

A 10-minute demo for “Prisoner of Her Past” will screen this November at the Chicago Humanities Festival. The final project may evolve into a feature or an hour-long show, depending on what entities come onboard as partners, Rudnick said.

The initial budget is from private donations. No foundation or broadcast partners have stepped in yet to cover a major share of the financing.

“There’s some fatigue in the foundation world to the subject of the Holocaust,” Rudnick said. “We’re trying to show that this is a subject that applies to any kind of extreme trauma, any war or conflict or abuse situation where you can see the repercussions later in life. The War in the East is also not as explored in features and documentaries as the war in the West has been.”

See www.kartemquin.com.