My Conversation with filmmaker Tyler Gildin
Capturing unique stories is what filmmakers do. Understanding and recognizing that your family has unique and impactful stories is an awesome insight and realization. Award-winning filmmaker Tyler Gildin sits down with us to discuss his grandparents and how lucky he has been to have known and experienced both grandfathers and grandmothers for most of his life.
At the start of the conversation, we talk about Tyler’s grandfather Kenny, a dentist and very active in his community. Tyler shares a great story that is an example of how his Grandpa Kenny showed up for Tyler’s birthday party hurt and with a neck brace. Even though it would have been easier to drop by and visit with Tyler on another day, Grandpa Kenny showed up and “played hurt,” which Tyler still remembers to this day.
Tyler and I continue the conversation by talking about his fantastic documentary, The Starfish. Tyler talks about how his grandfather Herb was a little embarrassed and unsure that his story would be something that people would want to hear about. The fact is, this is a fascinating story that sounds like it was right out of Hollywood based on the close calls, the toughness of young children and teenagers, and the kindness of strangers.
At a high level, Herb and his older sisters left Nazi Germany just before the outbreak of WW II after Kristallnacht. At first, Herb (10 years old) and his sisters (aged 12 and 14) left their mother and father behind and made it to Sweden with the help of HIAS. After a period of time, Herb and his sisters were transported across Russia and then Japan. Herb then made it on the last boat to reach San Fransico from Japan before the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Tyler talks about how through these experiences, that his grandfather didn’t talk about his early childhood experiences often because he felt that Grandpa Herb didn’t want to be defined by his immigrant past. Herb wanted to be known for how he had worked hard to build several businesses in New York and raised a close family.
It is amazing that through the documentary, you get the sense that Herb would have rather spent an hour talking about YOU and what is going on in your life. It was just the way he was and what made Herb special.
In this feel-good story about surviving the holocausts, we have a very personal experience to prove that the kindness and generosity of strangers to individuals really make a difference. The poem The Starfish calls out the experience that Herb and his sisters experienced by strangers who took in the kids in Sweden and those that helped the family make the long journey to the United States. By strangers helping out Herb, it allowed him to later in his life to help out and mentor his employees, customers, and community in times of their need.
We wrap up our conversation by discussing how children and grandchildren can capture the stories of their grandparents to consume now or years down the road.
Click on The Starfish Documentary link below and be sure to watch this intriguing documentary. You will be inspired, and your faith in the goodness of strangers will be restored.
Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS)