above: Jacob Kantrowitz
By Richard Kane, Maine Masters Project Director
I think it’s important for any artist to figure out how to survive. For my paternal grandfather Jacob Kantrowitz, a skilled tailor, he survived living in the Ukraine city of Kharkov by chopping off his large toe to avoid being sent to the front lines during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. The word had reached home from Jacob’s older brother in Manchuria that Tsar Nikolai II was sending Jews to the front lines only to be slaughtered.
Interestingly President Teddy Roosevelt mediated the negotiations that ended that war on September 5, 1905 in what became known as the Treaty of Portsmouth. Sound familiar? The talks were held at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine! A few months later my grandfather Jacob emigrated to New York in 1906 with my grandmother Ida Wooten. They were 19.
Jacob went to work for a thriving dressmaking business on the Lower East Side and later, in The Bronx started Mr. K’s, his own tailoring business. His son, my father Murray, was the first to attend college (NYU) in the family, and after graduating dental school in 1941 he was drafted into World War II. Upon his return in 1945 he changed his name to Kane at a time when a great many American Jews were seeking to blend in and in a real sense hide from anti-Semitism.
Recall that President Franklin Roosevelt during WWII turned back ships filled with Jews fleeing the Nazis hoping to reach the safety of our shores. They were all subsequently incinerated in the Holocaust. Si Kahn memorialized that piece of history with his song Lady of the Harbor that I’ve long wanted to use in a film about those times. The immigrant is what has made this country strong.
When I started editing film in graduate school at Temple University in Philadelphia, I always felt I was following in my grandfather’s footsteps, cutting and trimming and sewing and creating a work of art.
So how have I learned to survive as a filmmaker in Maine while keeping all my fingers and toes? Just as any artist, you have to get your work shown. I learned a few years ago at the Points North Documentary Forum of the Camden International Film Festival that the key is through a publicist. Easier said than done. There are MANY more filmmakers than publicists.
But I did succeed in finding an extraordinary Outreach Director, Marga Varea, who has made all the difference in getting our last two films on Ashley Bryan and J. Fred Woell seen. FYI March 29, 2018 we’re having a NYC Premiere of our latest film J. Fred Woell: An American Vision at the Museum of Arts and Design with a panel of icons of the American Crafts Movement.
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There’s lots happening with the Maine Masters film series. The BIG NEWS is that Geoffrey Leighton and Anita Clearfield have begun work on a docu-art film project about our own beloved Natasha Mayers: An Un-still Life. Anita and Geoff thank the contributors to their successful Indiegogo campaign — many of whom are UMVA members — and hope to have the project completed by the end of the year. Stay tuned for more Natasha magic in Maine!
Moving into the fundraising phase of a film Robert Shetterly: Americans Who Tell the Truth. See the trailer: https://vimeo.com/220552230
We are also creating a Vimeo portal to have all our Maine Masters available on Vimeo.com/ondemand and am working with several teachers to create short versions that would be appropriate to use in schools and full length vimeos on demand for senior centers/retirement communities.