Film to bring buried Goshen history to light

Film to bring buried Goshen history to light

For the third year in a row, Goshen College’s FiveCore Media has delayed the release of its documentary film, “Vital Passage.” 

While the first delays were due to production complications, COVID-19 has halted filming this year.

“We are anxiously hoping that we can premiere [“Vital Passage”] in the new version of the theater,” said Kyle Hufford, associate professor of communication and general manager of FiveCore Media. “Our plans got put on hold a little bit to premiere it there…now that everything’s been delayed.” 

“Vital Passage,” which began as a Maple Scholars research project in 2017, is devoted to learning more about affidavit papers related to the Holocaust. 

The bundle of affidavits, which are written testimonies confirmed by an oath to be used in court, were found buried in the basement of an old store building in downtown Goshen eight years ago. 

After three years of research and conversations with the Goshen and Elkhart County Historical Society archives, the project gradually developed into something bigger. 

And as the research progressed, a 15-minute short film became an hour-long production.

Eric Miller, a junior film production major, has been a part of “Vital Passage” production for almost two years now. 

“What I’ve been mostly doing on the project is collecting what’s called ‘B-Roll’ — the videos and pictures that play overtop all the interviews,” he said. “I search on the Library of Congress, historical websites and even the occasional Google image to find images and videos that go well with what our interviewees are talking about.”

Based on true events, “Vital Passage” depicts the story of the Plauts, a Jewish family who settled into Goshen after immigrating to the United States from Germany in the late 1920s. 

While keeping their identity a secret in order not to be caught, the Plauts sponsored Jewish families, allowing them to flee Nazi Germany and kept affidavit papers as proof and protection.

While the producers believe that it is valuable to preserve this Goshen artifact, they feel it is equally as important to have an audience to share it with. 

The film’s debut was originally planned for the 2019 Riverbend Film Festival and then was changed to a preview at the Umble Center. However, neither of these screenings ended up being the right fit for the film.

“We have delayed this film because we want to release the best quality product possible, even if it means delaying the premiere three times to make the changes we need,” Miller said. “‘Vital Passage’ at this stage is very nearly finished — for real this time — and at this point we are hoping to premiere the film whenever it is safe to show movies in theaters again.”

A potential debut venue now being considered for “Vital Passage” is the Goshen Theater, which has been closed for renovation since October 2019. The theater was last updated in the 1940s. 

The renovation nearly cost $5 million, with most of the funds raised from local sources such as The Community Foundation of Elkhart County and the city of Goshen as well as individual donors and businesses. 

“It’s rewarding to know that so many households and companies in Goshen feel deep ownership in the Goshen Theater and showed they wanted to make it a success by giving of their time, talent and treasure,”said Everett Thomas, the board chair of the Goshen Theater.

In the first stage of the renovation, workers restored the main lobby and ticket booth; next they installed a new elevator. The rehabilitation included the ceiling, floors, electric and plumbing. Thanks to an anonymous donor, seating throughout the theater was also refurbished, though this was not in the original plans. 

The Goshen Theater hopes to open to the public in September.

Ash Caldera, a senior film production major, is eager for the premiere of “Vital Passage” in the downtown theater. 

“My hope is that we’re able do justice [to] the story despite all of the setbacks that we’ve encountered,” Caldera said. 

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Written by Anna Smucker, Contributing Writer

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