"Letter From Cloudcroft"
LOGLINE: One historic event, two divergent conversations with her Father, a Jewish daughter's search uncovers an unlikely alliance between the United States and German Nazi rocket scientists in 1940's New Mexico arriving at an unexpected plateau of reconciliation between history and her story.
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In “Letter From Cloudcroft” daughter/filmmaker reveals the secret story of her Jewish father's participation in ‘Project Paperclip.’ The letters home from the filmmaker’s father, a twenty-one year old engineer, provide an eyewitness portal into a complex personal and national drama with a dual lens on family and political history, as this military endeavor launches not only rockets but a new space program in America with the cold war rising on the horizon. The treasure hunt to find pieces of her father’s story reveal unlikely allies in unlikely places with most unlikely results.
Every child, if they are fortunate, meets his or her parents at birth. Sometimes, something is discovered about our parents that give a daughter or son pause and a father or mother a new dimensionality. In “Letter From Cloudcroft,” a feature length documentary, a daughter holds in her hands an unopened letter from 1946 and extends a view of her father and her country beyond what she knows. Her eyes are opened as she discovers her country's concealed secrets. Her heart is opened as she immerses herself in her father as a young man, as he experienced a unique, yet contradictory, lifetime opportunity. Her pause stops her in her tracks from ripping open, one last unopened letter.
As the eldest daughter of Sanford Hess, I spent many weekends with him as a teenager, visiting his engineering job site inspections. I thought perhaps we’d work together someday. As a child I observed my father and my German Jewish grandparents and although he loved his parents, he was not particularly close to them. My father married Muriel Schiffman, a first generation Russian Jew. My mother was an opera singer, teacher and vehemently anti- German, boycotting all German products. Greatly influenced by my mother, I grew up with her same prejudice. I closely identified with my Russian Jewish heritage, feeling no affinity with my German Jewish side. Marching and protesting against the Vietnam War with my parents in the 1970’s I loved and respected my parents' activism and progressive Jewish values. It is no wonder my father did not share his Nazi rocket experiences with us. My father’s 1946 letters home were the impetus to launching an investigation into my father's military history and a treasure hunt to remember my country’s past. At my father’s funeral in 1989 I read my own letter aloud reminding him of my once held dream of “Sanford and Daughter.” With ‘Letter From Cloudcroft’ I am hanging that sign up by taking the time to tell his story and announcing our collaboration to the world.