by Rachel Pham
Director and NYU alum Emily Harrold recently held a private screening for family and friends involved in the making of her first documentary, “Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust.” Recognized as a National Finalist in last year’s 39th Annual Student Academy Awards, Harrold’s film brings to discussion the little known detail of how such a reputable and influential news publication as The New York Times, a Jewish-owned publication, had publicized the Holocaust with only minimal front-page coverage.
The documentary features several accounts, including that of Holocaust and Warsaw Ghetto survivor Estelle Laughlin, as well as interviews with Jewish American Studies historians, former New York Times reporters, and author Laurel Leff, whose book “Buried in the Times” was an inspiration for the making of the film.
Harrold explained that she first gained inspiration to make the film from a history class taken her sophomore year at NYU. The class, Jews & Other Minorities in Nazi Germany, taught by Marion Kaplan, addressed “the lesser known facts and events of the Holocaust,” including that “the U.S. government had known about concentration camps as early as 1942.”
“The fact that [the government] knew about it and didn’t think to get involved immediately was so shocking,” Harrold said.
Harrold grew up learning in school that the U.S. was the great liberators of the war, but had her mind opened once she came to college.
“To find out there was a caveat sent me on a quest to make a film about it,” Harrold said.
Harrold assured that the documentary is not meant to put blame on the publication, but rather “to understand and to put the audience in the shoes of the newspaper editor and the New York Times publisher at that time.”
“I didn’t want to be talking down from a pedestal. Why is it fair to expect more of the people from the past than we do of people from the present, knowing that we know what we do now?” Harrold asked.
Another goal for her film was to enter the topic of the Holocaust from “a new angle” that hadn’t already been exhausted through other films and documentaries.
“Breaking out of that mold and making people re-examine something that people thought they knew everything about was important,” Harrold said.
On achieving recognition by the Student Academy Awards as a national finalist out of a pool of several hundred other contestants, Harrold remains humbled, yet proud of her hard work, and appreciative of those who helped make the film a reality.
“A lot of filmmaking is collaborative,” Harrold said. “It’s important to never forget to say thank you.”
As a student at NYU, Harrold held a double major in the Film and Television program and the History department. Through her studies, Harrold learned the art of filmmaking and the history that “really led to the making of this film.”
“History has such a wealth of knowledge, [it’s great] for film and documentaries,” Harrold said.
Harrold reflected proudly on NYU’s conducive environment that “really encourages students to go out and do anything they set their minds to.”
“Had I been in a different environment, I’m not sure I would go out there,” Harrold said. “This environment let me see that I could do this.”
Rachel Pham is a contributing writer. Email her at email@example.com.