The Samuel Project – A story for grandparents and grandchildren

by | Jan 21, 2019 | What’s Happening

Sunday, January 27, 2 pm, TCC Roper Performing Arts Center, $10, free for teachers and students
Actors Hal Linden and Ryan Ochoa to speak following the film.

A longtime assistant to Steven Spielberg, filmmaker Marc Fusco has been intrigued by the impact of previous generations. His experience working with the famed director after the critically acclaimed Schindler’s List shined a spotlight on the atrocities of the Holocaust and included a firsthand connection to the testimonies of survivors, often told for the first time.

Fusco, the son of an Italian immigrant, understands the struggle of starting a new life in a new country. “We are a country of dreamers and it’s a beautiful thing,” he says. “Now, imagine if you are kicked out of your home and have to start fresh, not by choice. Then add to the problem that no country really wants you. How would that change you and your family?” It was with this sentiment in mind that The Samuel Project was born. In the film, Hal Linden’s (Barney Miller) character, Samuel Bergman, was orphaned at eight years old when he lost his entire family at the hands of the Nazis. A young German woman found and took him in after he was shot for trespassing on her family’s farm near Hanover, Germany.

The film unfolds when his grandson Eli, played by Ryan Ochoa (iCarly), pleads for Samuel to share his story for a school art project. Hesitant at first, Samuel finally gives in when Eli offers to work alongside him for free in exchange for his story. For the first time, the two get to know each other.

In the podcast, Unorthodox, hosted by Mark Oppenheimer, Stephanie Butnick, and Liel Leibovitz, Hal Linden discusses his experience playing Samuel, saying that today’s multi-generational families do not communicate well, and that many times grandchildren know nothing of their grandparents’ past.

“In executing the Samuel project, he [Eli] finds out my [Samuel] back story and represents it in art,” says Linden. “Like most Holocaust survivors, I don’t particularly want to talk about it. It is very hard to get the information out of me, but he [Eli] does…and in a sense, art becomes more eloquent than words and the three generations (grandfather, father, and son) kind of come closer together through the project.”

A story of bridging the generational gap, The Samuel Project shows how important it is to preserve the stories and history of generations past.

Callah Terketlaub

This film is presented in partnership with United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Holocaust Commission and BBYO.

The Samuel Project is a part of the 26th Annual Festival of Jewish Film. For more information on the festival, contact Callah Terkeltaub, Arts + Ideas manager, at or visit