A documentary produced by a UT history major is gaining a lot of recognition in the independent film industry, and in particular, on the World Wide Web.
"Interviews from the Underground," a film created by Phillip Alloy, a UT graduate student in the History Department, is currently one of the highest rated films on www.IFILM.com. IFILM.com is the Internet's most popular site for independent film-makers.
The film can also be seen at www.Minutemovies.com and will also soon be at www.Pepper-view.com, a French-based site. "Interviews from the Underground" is currently the highest rated film on www.Minutemovies.com.
Alloy said the film centers around interviews with members of the Jewish men and women in Russia who fought against the Nazis during World War II. He said his grandparents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and that he traveled to the country last year in an attempt to learn more about his heritage. "Ever since I was a kid I've always wanted to go to Russia," Alloy said. "My grandparents were Jewish and I was Jewish so it was also a very personal thing for me."
While traveling in what is now Belarus, Alloy said he met a survivor of the holocaust who told him stories about the Jewish underground during the war. "He took me on a tour of what was left of a Minsk ghetto," Alloy said. "It was really amazing because it's such a huge city that was leveled during the war. He said it's for the next generation to pass the story on to and I just felt the best way to hear it or experience it was through the people who lived it," he explained. "He kind of gave me this story to carry on." "I took it not only as a research project, but as something that was very personal to me," Alloy said. Alloy said he decided to tell the story as a project for his Honors Program senior research project. With a UT Sullivan Fellowship grant and money from his own pockets, Alloy traveled back to Russia where he interviewed men and women who had survived the war.
When he returned, he had collected over twenty hours of raw footage containing interviews of the survivors. "What was strange was that most of these people had never told their stories, either to foreigners or to the public," Alloy said. "Also, the only spoke in Russian so I had to have it overdubbed into English with Russian accents. However, Alloy said he had no idea at first what to do with the material he had collected. "My initial intention was not to turn it into a film," he said.
Alloy eventually teamed up with Todd Stanton, who runs Todd Productions, a Toledo-based video production company. Stanton said he basically put the movie together after consulting Alloy on how it should look. The 20 hours of interviews were then cut to just a 20 minute documentary. Alloy said that once he began editing, the movie took about two months to produce. "I had such a wealth of material and I thought I had to do something about it," Alloy said. "I realized that I had all this raw material and I guess I just started putting the pieces together." "It worked out that it was exactly what I had conceptualized it as," Alloy said.
"Once I saw it on film, putting it together didn't take too long," Alloy said. "I had the conceptualization of what I wanted and it worked out perfectly." Alloy said he first presented the documentary at a brown bag presentation for his honors program in April this year. The movie was later picked up on www.IFILM.com and has been airing over the Internet since July. The film quickly became one of the most popular on the site. "Other people are starting to see it and take notice," Alloy said. Alloy said he has also received an invitation to show the film at the Milan International Film Festival in January. The festival will feature a variety of independent films, including documentaries and experimental movies. Alloy also emphasized that he could not have completed the project without the help of the University. "I really appreciate the support the University has given me throughout the project," Alloy said.
The story of the Jewish underground is something Alloy said he would like to pursue in the future. He emphasized that "Interviews From the Underground" was meant to be enlightening not just for history majors or those interested with the Holocaust. "I want to tell the story to as many people as possible," Alloy said. "This film tells a story that should be told to people of both Jewish and non-Jewish origins." "I want to expand on this and finish it," Alloy said. "I think what will happen is this will lad to other projects. There's a whole history here that almost nobody knows about." He said he hopes he can count on the support of the University for future projects. "I hope I can count on the University to help me see this to fruition," he said