NEW YORK, April 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- The story of the late Harry Somers is no ordinary one: He escaped the horrors of Nazi Germany as a teenager, making a new life for himself that included creating remarkable works of art. Now, his story — and his words of wisdom — have become the subject of an engrossing and heartfelt documentary, "Portrait of Harry" (http://www.portraitofharry.com/). Produced by a small team of dedicated independent filmmakers, the film also marks the first directorial credit for cinematographer Erik Angra.
Appropriately, "Portrait of Harry" premieres on Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Memorial Day), April 24, at 9 p.m. on The World Channel. Coming on the heels of Passover, the film of course has special significance for the Jewish community, yet Somers' life story contains lessons that everyone can benefit from hearing and understanding.
"Harry Somers transmuted grief and suffering into a life rich with beauty and meaning," says Angra. "Now more than ever, we need to see and hear positive stories, and be reminded that there is good in each of us. Somers' life could have gone in a different direction. He could have been embittered by his experience, but he refused that path. Today, as our nation seemingly becomes more polarized than ever, we can all learn something from Somers' humble wisdom.
It was pure chance that Harry Somers' and Angra's lives intersected. In 2012, Angra (along with producers Artemis Joukowsky and Sandri Valenti) was in Arizona to promote a Ken Burns film on the Holocaust. Somers happened to be living next door and was treated to a screening of the film — after which he revealed his own personal, harrowing experiences under the Third Reich. It was an emotional and intimate experience for all present. Somers had recently been diagnosed with a terminal condition, so getting his incredible story to the world became Angra's mission.
Over the next few weeks, Angra stayed with Somers as his condition deteriorated, recording his words and memories. Despite his illness, the painter expressed himself with moving eloquence. "Before meetings Somers," remarks Angra, "I don't know if I fully appreciated the wisdom our elders have to offer. This was a man who saw the worst of people, yet decided not to succumb to hate or regret. He embraced beauty and refused to close himself off from the world."
While the desert Southwest is naturally seen as an unforgiving place, Somers came to appreciate its austere beauty and the perseverance of the flora and fauna that have evolved to survive there. Angra believes this aptly symbolizes Somers' positive perspective on life, which comes through brilliantly in his warm and radiant paintings.
The artist Harry Somers passed away in 2013, but his legacy lives on in powerful ways. In his later years, he donated dozens of paintings to Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix for use in art therapy classes. Angra's believes "Portrait of Harry" can be another form of that legacy, reminding people that charity, hope and love are essential to a life well-lived.
Recently, both Angra and Joukowsky joined renowned filmmaker Ken Burns as editor and co-director, respectively, in producing the documentary "Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War." Angra earned the notable distinction of being the youngest editor for a Ken Burns film.
Stream it April 25th-May 24th: http://bit.ly/LUSA_Harry
SOURCE Erik Angra