Filming in Amsterdam
Written by Alexa Telano, Development Associate
Touching down in Amsterdam, I was thinking of the Youth Video Contest. We were there to conclude shooting our documentary “HERE LIVED,” about Stolpersteine: the commemorative stones placed throughout Europe that honor the lives of those murdered by Nazis. This was the first time I was part of a film crew. Working in fundraising for 3 Generations offered an exciting albeit limited view of our main mission, documenting critical human rights abuses through film. But I was here now: to help finish this film.
My first shoot was with the Leavitt family. Bella, the older daughter, was in Amsterdam as a part of her Bat Mitzvah project. It marked the first time in history the Yad Vashem Twinning Program and the Stolpersteine project joined hand in hand: Bella chose to raise money to have Stolpersteine created for her “twin”, Betje de Vries, and Betje’s family. Interviewing Bella felt more lighthearted than sorrowful, more playful than sober, and mostly created a pause in me that didn’t end until I returned home. Most teens are complex and unpredictable, but Bella has a spark in her that is rare and enjoyable. As the 3 Generations team interviewed Bella and her family, I used my iPhone to capture behind-the-scenes photos and videos. Bella and her younger sister, Abbey, helped me frame some great shots of their mother, Naomi, being interviewed.
The next morning we attended a Stolpersteine-laying ceremony for the de Vries family. Standing outside what was once the family home, with over a hundred in attendance, I understood that the celebrants had finally laid their family to rest. I was excited to film more “behind the scenes’ and odd “verité” moments with an iPhone 14 Max Pro: the small boy who currently lives in what was once Betje’s home playing with a water can; a menorah in the window of an apartment across the courtyard; the neighbors hanging out of their windows; an older man in a wheelchair, straining to hear; rain falling on several diplomats and ambassadors, too engaged in the weight of the ceremony to cover their heads; Bella and Abbey, (both at the cusp of childhood and adulthood), impatiently twirling, pacing, and chatting to security guards while they waited for Bella’s turn to speak. What an honor it was to film these intimate and critical moments of people’s lives.
As the sun set on my last day in Amsterdam, I felt gratitude for the experience: the people, the sights, the laughs, and even the tears. I was lucky to go to Amsterdam, but YOU could film something anywhere. This trip deepened the artist, photographer, and emerging filmmaker within me. More importantly, I experienced gratitude for Betje and her family. Their story continues to serve as inspiration and healing for us, so many years later.
Check out our FilmFreeway page for details and to submit to our Youth Video Contest!