By SCOT A. PITZER - Times Staff Writer
Filmmaker Jake Boritt has a captivating true story to tell. It’s the tale of a child who survived the Nazi regime, and as a teenager fled to the United States in pursuit of the American Dream. Boritt has an ideal subject for his documentary — his father.
Dr. Gabor Boritt, a history professor at Gettysburg College, was born in Budapest, Hungary, at the start of World War II. His mother died, his father and brother were sent to prison, and his grandfather’s family was deported and killed in Auschwitz.
Since arriving in America in the late 1950s, Gabor Boritt has written 16 books and is now an acclaimed historian, having received many honorary degrees and awards. Several titles are being considered for the documentary. Among the final choices are: “Right to Rise” and “Budapest to Gettysburg.” Boritt says the choice of title will be made shortly.
The documentary is an epic exploring the life and work of Gabor Boritt, ranging from his humble beginnings, to his struggle to escape Hitler, the Nazis, and later, the Communist Party. It will culminate with Gabor’s success in America as a scholar of both the Civil War and of President Abraham Lincoln.
Boritt thinks his father is the perfect subject to focus on because he lived one history, yet went on to master another. “The documentary is about someone who started with nothing, escaped tyranny, came to America, and rose to prominence here,” said Boritt.
This is not Jake Boritt’s first project, as he was recently an associate producer for an A&E documentary, “Crime Ink.” Boritt is also producing a film for the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation, one that will be continuously shown to the millions of visitors who visit the area each year.
In 2002, he wrote, directed, filmed, and produced “Adams County, USA,” which aired on public television, and is also used in schools. Currently, Boritt’s newest project is in the development and fund-raising stages. Boritt is aiming for an 80-minute film, one that will combine original footage that he will shoot himself, along with archival footage.
Right now, funding for the film is the only thing holding Boritt back. “We have roughly 20 percent of our fund-raising goal accomplished,” said Boritt. “Once enough funds are secured, we can go on to the next stages of this project.”
Jack Kemp, a former Cabinet member, vice-presidential candidate and Empower America founder, is leading the fund-raising process. Boritt estimates that the project may gather nearly 100 donors. In the fall, Boritt hopes to begin research and development, and in 2005, he expects to begin full-fledged production. However, depending on fund-raising, no dates have been set in stone.
The film is intended to reach a national audience, and Boritt is considering PBS as the best venue for his film. Potentially, because of the recent successes that documentaries have had in movie theaters, Boritt is aiming for a theatrical release, both in the United States and abroad.
“The film will, obviously because of its subject, have a big local significance,” said Boritt. “But our goal is also for that of a wide-ranging, broader audience.” Among the topics his film will touch on are World War II, the Holocaust, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, as well as Lincoln and the Civil War. Boritt is eager to begin the production process, which he hopes to get started in the fall.
“Realistically, we’d like to have the film completed and ready for both theatrical and television release in 2006,” said Boritt. According to Boritt, 2006 will be an ideal year for the release of his film. It is the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution and his father’s escape to America.
Scot Pitzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.