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Tribute to Mira Hamermesh

23 November 6:00 pm

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In the centenary year of her birth, Jeremy Coopman will pay tribute to his mother, the remarkable Polish-born film maker and artist Mira Hamermesh, who spent most of her working life in England. The event will be chaired by David Herman.

Mira Hamermesh was born in July 1923 in Lodz, Poland into a comfortable middle-class Jewish family, the youngest of three children. Mira was 16 when the German invaded Poland in September 1939. She and her brother Mietek decided to go to Palestine to join their sister. Her parents stayed in Lodz: her mother died of starvation in the Lodz ghetto in 1942; her father perished in Auschwitz in 1944.

Mira and her brother escaped to Lvov in Soviet-occupied Poland where they were separated. Mira reached Vilnius in Lithuania in 1940. Her sister Genia, who had emigrated in 1938, procured her an entry visa to Palestine and she finally reached Palestine in 1941 where she was reunited with her sister. Her brother reached Palestine in 1943. Mira won a British Council scholarship to study at the Slade School of Fine Art and moved to London in 1946.

In 1961, Mira was accepted into the Polish National Film School in Lodz. In 1968 she was invited to help set up Israel Television and produced several documentaries for the fledgling broadcaster, including the much praised ‘The Fighters of the Ghetto’ about a kibbutz set up by Holocaust survivors in northern Israel.

The mid-80s to the early 90s saw Hamermesh’s most creative period, including several acclaimed documentaries for Channel 4. Her final film, ‘Loving the Dead’ (BBC TV, 1991), was a deeply moving exploration of how present-day Poles live with the ghosts of their missing Jewish neighbours.

Mira Hamermesh died in 2012. In 2014 the BFI celebrated her life and works with a short retrospective introduced by Jeremy Isaacs, founding father of Channel 4 and one of her greatest advocates.


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Image: Josef Herman: Portrait of Mira Hamermesh