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Spell Your Name

The documentary's L.A. premiere features a guest appearance from Ukrainian director Sergey Bukovsky.

Sergey Bukovsky, director of "Spell Your Name"
Sergey Bukovsky, director of "Spell Your Name"

The Los Angeles premiere of "Spell Your Name," a feature-length documentary film about the Holocaust in Ukraine produced by Steven Spielberg and Victor Pinchuk, will take place Sunday, Feb. 22, at USC’s Ellen Norris Cinema Theatre.

The free event marks the West Coast’s only 2009 screening of the documentary, crafted using Ukrainian and Russian-language testimonies from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education archive.

The institute, housed in USC College, has available nearly 52,000 videotaped testimonies from Holocaust survivors and other witnesses in 32 languages across 56 countries.

In making the documentary, director Sergey Bukovsky and his crew used the archive and new footage shot on location in Ukraine. The film takes viewers on a journey with Bukovsky and several Ukranian students as they absorb the testimonies of local community members who escaped execution. Some in the film rescued neighbors during the Holocaust.

The documentary also looks at modern-day Ukraine and the ethnic stereotypes that prevail today. It examines the manner in which post-Soviet society is grappling with the question of how to memorialize the sites where thousands of Jewish families and others were brutally executed and thrown into mass graves.

A scene from the documentary, "Spell Your Name." The film, crafted using the USC Shoah Foundation Institute archive of Holocaust survivor testimony, screens at USC on Feb. 22.

Courtesy of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education

Spielberg, who established the Shoah Foundation in 1994 after making Academy Award-winning "Schindler’s List", has called Bukovsky’s documentary “one of the brightest films on the Holocaust that I have ever seen.”

The Sunday event includes an appearance by Bukovsky, who will travel from Ukraine to Los Angeles to participate in a panel discussion after the screening. Others participants are Kim Simon, the institute’s interim executive director; Michael Renov, professor and associate dean of academic affairs in the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and Crispin Brooks, the institute’s curator.

Wolf Gruner, holder of the Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and professor of history in the College will moderate. Mikhail Tyaglyy, a Holocaust historian and co-author of an educational guide that accompanies the film, will attend as a special guest.

The screening takes place inside the theater’s Frank Sinatra Hall from 4:30 to 6 p.m., followed by the panel discussion and audience question-and-answer session, and ending with a reception where refreshments will be served.

The event is part of Visions and Voices, the USC Arts and Humanities Initiative.

RSVP to or (213) 740-2950.