Facing History on Watchers of the Sky

In our sixth year of collaboration with Facing History and Ourselves, NFF is proud to present the Sundance Award winning, masterful documentary, Watchers of the Sky. Following the festival's first screening, FHAO Vice President and Chief Program Officer Marc Skvirsky will hold an extended conversation with the film's Academy Award nominated director Edet Belzberg. Skvirsky and Chair of the Board Jill Karp spoke to us about why Watchers of the Sky exemplifies FHAO's mission.


What does Facing History and Ourselves seek to accomplish?

Jill Karp: For the past four decades, we've worked with teachers to better understand the dangers of intolerance and the potential to make an impact in the world, as we consider the historical development of the Holocaust, and other examples of genocide and collective violence.

How does Watchers of the Sky relate to your mission?

Marc Skvirsky: We can easily become numbed by what we hear and read in the press about the atrocities that are committed across the globe, but Watchers of the Sky manages to slow time down, as it interweaves the powerful stories of people who have devoted their lives to preventing genocide. The film looks at our potential for doing evil as we pan historical events in the 20th and 21st centuries, but it also highlights our capacity for goodness. One of these stories is about Raphael Lemkin.

During the Holocaust, he lost 49 relatives, yet he maintained his resolve to bring the new term that he developed, "genocide," to the attention of the international community. The rest of his life was devoted towards laying the groundwork for other "upstanders" to advocate for genocide prevention.  t's fascinating to consider how a filmmaker can relate such a powerful story through archival footage and interviews, while also integrating incredible animation and a rich musical score. The portraits of these individuals are inspiring.

How can film affect our perspective on these matters?

Mark Skvirsky: At Facing History, we are committed to bringing exemplary documentaries that address powerful social concerns to audiences across the world. We're also working with the director, Edet Belzberg, and her team, as we create four short educational documentaries from Watchers of the Sky for high school audiences. These resources will highlight the potential we all have to make a difference in the world.