Institute News

Spell Your Name, Produced by Steven Spielberg and Victor Pinchuk, to Begin Theatrical Release in Kyiv

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA/KYIV, UKRAINE–February 7, 2007–The film, Spell Your Name, which premiered in Kyiv, Ukraine in October 2006, will now be seen by wider audiences across Ukraine.  Spell Your Name, a collaboration between the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, is a feature-length documentary about the Holocaust in Ukraine.  Ukrainian film director Sergey Bukovsky crafted the film using Ukrainian and Russian language testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute archive and new footage shot on location in Ukraine.

Bukovsky takes viewers on a journey of discovery as he and several Ukrainian students absorb the testimony of local people who escaped brutal execution, and those who rescued friends and neighbors during the Holocaust.  The men and women in the film share the details of their experiences, and viewers are afforded a glimpse of modern day Ukraine:  the ethnic stereotypes that continue to exist and the manner in which post-Soviet society is dealing with the question of how to memorialize the sites where tens of thousands of Jewish families and others were executed and thrown into mass graves.

Beginning February 15, the film will be shown in large cinemas and small, independent theatres in major cities in Ukraine.  Theatrical distribution will begin in Kyiv, followed by Dnipropetrovsk, Chernivtsi, Odesa, and Kharkiv.  Spell Your Name will be shown for one to two weeks in each location.

Additionally, with funding from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, educational distribution of Spell Your Name is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2007.  To support the film’s use in the classroom, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute is working with historians, educators, and experts in the field of Holocaust studies to develop a teacher’s guide that expands upon the topics raised in the film.  The guide is co-authored by Mikhail Tyagly and Oleksandr Voytenko.

The goal of the guide is to provide educators with a practical and thorough way to incorporate Spell Your Name into their teachings on the Holocaust.  The educational materials and the methodological guidance of the teacher’s guide are intended to help teachers who use the film for educational purposes with students ages 14 through 18.  Together the film and guide promote tolerance and respect for human rights by encouraging students to think critically about complex aspects of social life, and promoting respect for one’s own history as well as those of other people's.

Spell Your Name raises issues of tolerance, which is timely everywhere,” said Douglas Greenberg, History Professor and Institute Executive Director.  “The teacher’s guide provides a context by which educators can use the film in the classroom to provide an education about the Holocaust in Ukraine, as well as begin a dialogue about the future.  We hope teachers will find it to be a valuable resource.”

“We want the new generations of Ukrainians to learn from the lessons of the past in order to build a peaceful and tolerant future for Ukraine,” said Thomas Eymond-Laritaz, President and CEO of the Victor Pinchuk Foundation.

An important aspect of the manual is that it is not structured in a manner which presents the Holocaust on a chronological basis, but rather in the form of ten separate, educational topics that cover specific values and ideas that are raised by the film.  Teachers can conduct each lesson independently from the others, or can teach them together as part of a larger unit.  Lesson topics include stereotypes, propaganda, totalitarianism, bystanders, and resistance.  Within each lesson clips are woven from the film, including testimony of Holocaust survivors and rescuers that are relevant to the topics covered in the manual.

In the fall of 2007, with further support from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute in partnership with Nova Doba, the Ukrainian History Teachers’ Association, will launch a training program for using the guide and film for teachers throughout Ukraine.  Many of the teachers trained will become trainers, providing instruction for local teachers from their region.  Spell Your Name and the accompanying teacher’s guide are suited for use in history classes, as well as law, ethics, civic studies, philosophy, and literature classes.

More information about the film Spell Your Name is available at www.spellyourname.org.

About USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education

With a collection of nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s archive is the largest visual history archive in the world.  The Institute interviewed Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.

The mission of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry–and the suffering they cause–through the educational use of the Institute's visual history testimonies.  The Institute relies upon partnerships in the United States and around the world to provide public access to the archive and advance scholarship in many fields of inquiry.  The Institute and its partners also utilize the archive to develop educational products and programs for use in many countries and languages.

About the Victor Pinchuk Foundation

The Victor Pinchuk Foundation develops and supports projects that contribute to the modernization of Ukraine and to the emergence of a new generation of Ukrainian leaders.  Its six fields of activity and current projects have been carefully selected to contribute to those goals:

  • Health (Neonatal Centers, fight against HIV/AIDS)
  • Education (Stipends Program, Kyiv School of Economics, Aspen Ukraine Initiative)
  • Culture (Contemporary Art Centre, Film with Steven Spielberg, Chamber Orchestra)
  • Human Rights (Legal Clinic/Legal Aid with the Soros Foundation)
  • Ukraine in the World (Yalta European Strategy, Amicus Europae Foundation, Brookings Institution, Peterson Institute of International Economics, International Crisis Group)
  • Local Communities (Dnipropetrovsk, Jewish Communities)