PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND (December 21, 2016) -- Sometimes a story will simmer and froth until it comes into its own. Through time and opportunity - or lack thereof - its telling evolves at its own pace, sometimes in cooperation and sometimes in defiance of the storyteller. Such is the history of Artemis Joukowsky's documentary film, Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War.
With the first musings written when he was in grade school, Artemis Joukowsky III, now in his 50s, completed his documentary and saw its premiere on PBS last fall. Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War is an account of his grandparents' daring rescue mission that occurred at the beginning of World War II.
It tells the story of Waitstill and Martha Sharp, a Unitarian minister and his wife from Wellesley, Massachusetts, who left their children behind in the care of their parish and boldly committed to multiple life-threatening missions in Europe. Over the next two years, they helped to save more than a hundred political dissidents and Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi occupation across Europe.
The voice of Tom Hanks as Waitstill, and Marina Goldman as Martha, bring to life the Sharps' letters and other writings, shedding light on their thoughts and observations at the time. In addition to commentary by historians, the shining moments of the 90-minute film are the stories of the survivors - rescued children who went on to have children and grandchildren of their own, none of which would have been possible without the courage and resourcefulness of the couple from Massachusetts.
From Wellesley to the European war zone and back again, the connection to Rhode Island preceded them all. Joukowsky's grandmother, Martha Ingham Dickie Sharp, grew up in Providence and attended Brown University on a scholarship. Married to Waitstill Sharp in 1927, they divorced in 1954. Remarrying a few years later, Martha Sharp-Cogan died in Providence in 1999.
Filmmaker Ken Burns produced the film with Artemis Joukowsky, a long-time acquaintance. In interviews, Burns recounts how he looked at the "diamond in the rough" - this work of film and storytelling that had been an ongoing project in Joukowsky's life for decades - and saw a compelling story that needed to be told.
The result of that collaboration, Defying the Nazis: The Sharps' War, will air on Rhode Island PBS on January 5 at 9 p.m.
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