After Sharon Stone came to know Chicagoan Samuel R. Harris, the actress got the idea that the early life experiences of Harris — one of the few living survivors of the horrors of the Holocaust — “deserved to be told.”
She had read “Sammy: Child Survivor of the Holocaust,” the children’s book Harris wrote, and met Harris on a number of occasions. When Stone traveled to Chicago to visit the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, where Harris is the president emeritus, the experience had a profound effect on the actress and filmmaker.
“Starting that museum in Skokie during that terrible time [after the Neo-Nazis’ threat in the 1970s to march through Skokie, which includes a large Jewish population] was such a wonderfully brave thing to do. It exhibited such an extraordinary sense of patriotism and dignity and self-respect — and respect for those who were lost.
Back at her home in Los Angeles, Stone invited a number of friends to dinner just so they could hear Harris’ story. “We filmed it. In looking over that footage, I thought it was so magnificent, we had to do more with it. Sam is just so special,” added Stone,
The end result of the filming effort became “An Undeniable Voice,” which Stone produced and which will be screened Sunday at the Music Box Theatre. It’s part of the weekend’s Peace on Earth Film Festival, which presents movies about non-violence and social justice. Harris and some of his family members, as well as director Price Arana, who has a strong North Shore connection, will be at the Sunday screening. For more details go to peaceonearthfilmfestival.org.
As Stone explained, Arana “grew up across the street from Sam, who was like a neighborhood uncle to her.”
The 16-minute film blends Harris’ comments with World War II footage of Holocaust atrocities.
“Given what is going on in the world today, it is an important time for people to remember what happened,” Stone said. “We have to remember we can’t be isolating groups of people, because this is the kind of thing that happens.”
Commenting on how Harris speaks with such grace about the unspeakable horrors he and his family experienced, Stone said, “The kind of community that was created within those camps was so key. I think we can all learn a great lesson about the power of love and the power of community — plus the power of dignity and self-respect.”
Stone is passionate about using “the power of community” to channel resources into another cause she feels strongly about.
“Along with Price Arana I’ve become involved with Blessings in a Backpack, to feed the more than 13.1 million American children who are living below the poverty line and leave school on Friday — and do not eat again until Monday,” said Stone.
The actress and philanthropist is committed to “keeping an eye on our public schools, our new Secretary of Education [Betsy DeVos], and ensure that those public schools stay funded and that healthy meals in the schools stay funded. Feeding and education our children has to stay a top priority. So many children don’t get food before they go to school. If you don’t eat, you can’t think or learn.”
For Stone, the final message is a simple one. “Right now, particularly in our nation, we need to help and share and care for others. It’s a help-share-care moment. We cannot afford to be a divided nation.”