2017 Digital Storytelling Contest, Long Form, 2nd prize

The Forger


The New York Times

“If I sleep for an hour, 30 people will die.”—Adolfo Kaminsky

When we came across the story of Adolfo Kaminsky—who by his 19th birthday had helped save thousands of lives by making false passports and other documents for children to flee the Nazis—we couldn’t believe we hadn’t heard it before. Kaminsky’s story—the secret meetings, the disguises, the pressure of knowing entire lives rested on his ability to forge a document without the smallest mistake—remains relatively unknown.

Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to film the 91-year-old Kaminsky about his secret past. “Without paper, we are condemned to immobility,” Kaminsky said. This project uses Kaminsky’s primary medium of paper to bring his past alive, thanks to a shadow puppetry theater group, Manual Cinema, and haunting handmade shadow puppets filmed in action to illustrate Kaminsky’s vivid memories.

Today, Kaminsky is a man with a long white beard and tweed jacket, who shuffles around his neighborhood with a cane. He lives in a modest apartment for people with low incomes. Even his neighbors don’t know about his heroic past. When filming him, passersby kept asking who he was. We told them he was a hero of World War II, though his story goes on long after that. Kaminsky went on to forge passports for people escaping persecution in practically every major conflict of the mid-20th century. Deploying his artistry on behalf of humanity for decades, he saved thousands from war, famine, and abuse. This story remains painfully relevant today. when children are being bombed in Syria and boarding shabby boats to escape by sea, The Forger forces viewers to confront their own responsibility. “I did all I could when I could,” Kaminsky says. “Now, I can’t do anything.”

Production team