Documentary tells tale of Jewish refugees who fled to China

'Above the Drowning Sea' is narrated by Julianna Margulies and Tony Goldwyn.

October 2, 2017 15:21
1 minute read.
Julianna Margulies and Tony Goldwyn

Julianna Margulies and Tony Goldwyn. (photo credit: GUS RUELAS AND ANDREW KELLY / REUTERS)


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A documentary about Jewish Holocaust refugees who made their way to China will be playing this week at a US film festival.

Above the Drowning Sea, directed by Rene Balcer - who is known for his work on Law and Order and Law and Order: Criminal Intent - premiered last week at the JCC in Manhattan. It will play at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival next week and then head to the Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival in November.

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The film, narrated by Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife) and Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), tells the story of "the courageous intervention of Ho Feng Shan, the Chinese Consul in Vienna who defied his own government and braved the Gestapo to issue visas to the refugees."

The 90-minute film, shot in six countries, includes interviews with refugees themselves, Chinese residents who aided the newcomers and animation which tells some of the stories from 75 years ago.

“All my grandparents came here as Jewish refugees to a country that greeted them with open arms,” Margulies said in statement. “When I was asked to narrate this film about refugees then and today, I immediately picked up the phone and said I’d do it. Who wouldn’t?”

Balcer co-produced the film with his wife, Carolyn Hsu-Balcer.

Balcer got his career start in 1973, as a cameraman covering the Yom Kippur War for Canadian media outlets. He stumbled into the job by accident, as he had just landed in Israel to visit a girlfriend when the war broke out.

At a post-screening discussion at The Asia Society in New York on Thursday night, Balcer noted how the story of Above the Drowning Sea still has such relevance today.

"They always say this is a nation of immigrants. Well this is a planet of immigrants, of refugees, and there's always movements of populations," he said. "Because, at some point, whether its 50 years ago, 10 weeks ago or 1,000 years ago, somebody told our ancestors yes you can stay here, and it's OK."

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