November 7, 2018 — Rachel Wayne

UF Center for Jewish Studies to Co-Sponsor Sneak Preview of New Film on French Jew who Survived the Occupation

The University of Florida Center for Jewish Studies and the Jewish Council of North Central Florida will host a special rough-cut preview of Cojot, a feature-length documentary that follows the life of Michel Cojot-Goldberg, a Nazi hunter, Entebbe hostage, and ultimately, a Klaus Barbie trial witness.

Audiences will have a rare opportunity to provide input on a work-in-progress. The screening will take place at 7 pm on Thursday, November 15 at the Hippodrome Cinema.

Developed from a project at the UF Paris Research Center, and shot in numerous locations in France, UK, Israel and the US, Cojot is composed from hundreds of hours of footage, archival documents, and animation. The film includes interviews with Cojot family members, international Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, and Operation Entebbe lead pilot Joshua Shani.

A riveting character study, Cojot is written, directed and produced by UF alum, journalist, and filmmaker Boaz Dvir (Jessie’s Dad, A Wing and a Prayer). Dvir is faculty in the Department of Journalism at Penn State University. The film is narrated by actor Judd Nelson (The Breakfast Club, St. Elmo’s Fire).

UF’s Dr. Gayle Zachmann, who serves as the feature-length documentary’s historical consultant and producer, will present the film. CLAS International Educator of the year (2016) and University Term Professor (2018-2021), she is Associate Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures and the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Florida.

Gayle Zachmann conducts an interview.

In recent months, Dvir and Zachmann have screened the rough-cut to more than 1,300 people around the country.

Director of the UF Center for Jewish Studies Jack Kugelmass, said “Projects like this come about because a faculty member is doing work on the ground, and there is no substitute for this. Sometimes these kinds of endeavors can really bear fruit. Here is a case where it has. The project has already had –and will continue to have—important implications for course development and student research projects as well.”

Zachmann, who developed the UF Certificate in European Jewish Studies, has been instrumental in curriculum building, regularly offering courses in French Jewish Studies at UF. Her research focuses on French Jewish writings and literary and visual cultures of the 19th and 20th centuries. She spent last summer in France and Israel interviewing for a class she is currently teaching on cultural flows between France and Israel. She notes: “Working on the film has been quite an adventure, from the very first interviews, to Boaz’s turn –much to my delight– to the story of Cojot. A perfect fit, and a wonderful opportunity for students–who were always part of the process–at both the University of Florida and Penn State.”

“We are excited to offer this special screening to the Gainesville community and delighted by the support we’ve seen over the years, on campus and off,” said Zachmann.

“I have seen this film emerge in its various stages and I am truly impressed by how it’s come together into a powerful and coherent whole,” said Professor Kugelmass, “I am particularly struck by the creative use of animation. This is something which might seem overly daring and difficult to integrate with footage […], but Dvir succeeds and it makes the film that much more compelling and a pleasure to watch.” He added, “This project has been an excellent one for the Center and UF. It has given students hands on experience in filmmaking, editing, translation, and wonderful outreach to the community. It presents a new and exciting way for academics to present their work to the larger community.”

Dvir’s previous film, the PBS documentary A Wing and a Prayer, has screened around the world and won Best Feature Documentary at the 2016 Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival. The Guardian’s Hadley Freeman wrote: “It wasn’t until I saw Boaz Dvir’s very moving forthcoming documentary about him, Cojot, that I truly understood Michel’s life, and perhaps the message of it.” Cojot is a co-production with Matthew Einstein and Richie Sherman.

This special fall sneak preview will also include trailers for the Ninth Annual Gainesville Jewish Film Festival, which will run from Sunday, March 17 through the 30th. Admission is $10. Students are admitted free with valid ID. Tickets may be reserved now. For more information about the screening or for assistance with reserving and purchasing tickets, please contact the Jewish Council office at 352.371.3846.

Sneak preview event hosted by the Gainesville Jewish Film Festival and co-sponsored by the UF Center for Jewish Studies, the Jewish Council of North Central Florida, the UF Harry Rich Endowment for Holocaust Studies, and Hadassah of Gainesville.

Read the note about Cojot in Ytori.