Screening of local filmmaker Rebecca Snow’s The Boy in the Woods set for Fox Theatre on July 4

The Boy in the Woods tells the true story of Maxwell 'Max" Smart who survived the Holocaust by hiding in the woods of Eastern Europe during the Second World War.

By ERIN HORROCKS-POPE

The Fox Theatre in the Beach will host a special screening of The Boy in the Woods on Thursday, July 4, showcasing the work of accomplished local filmmaker Rebecca Snow.

The film was written and directed by Snow in collaboration with her husband, producer and director Robert Budreau. The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers, providing a deeper insight into the creation of the movie.

The Boy in the Woods premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last September, earning acclaim for its powerful storytelling and emotional depth. The film is based on the true story and memoirs of Maxwell ‘Max’ Smart, a Holocaust survivor and his experiences during the Second World War.

Struggling to survive alone in the woods of Eastern Europe, Max’s life takes a dramatic turn when he encounters another young Jewish boy, Janek.

Together, they navigate the perils of their environment, embarking on adventures and ultimately saving the life of an abandoned infant. Their story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the enduring power of friendship and hope amidst the darkest of times.

Snow first encountered Smart’s story while filming her documentary Cheating Hitler: Surviving the Holocaust, which follows three Canadian Holocaust survivors as they return to the places of their past, seeking answers to long-unanswered questions from their experiences. Smart was one of the three survivors featured in Snow’s documentary.

Since finishing the project, she continued returning to his memoirs and story.

“I just knew it was a story that needed to be told and honoured,” said Snow.

“Max trusting me with his story is something I don’t take for granted. It’s such a huge thing to tell a Holocaust story, giving survivors an opportunity to share their stories and helping them remember those who didn’t survive.”

Snow described The Boy in the Woods as a “tragic but beautifully heartwarming story.”

She said that on several occasions during the filmmaking process, she had to remind herself that this was a true story that happened to 12-year-old Smart so many decades ago.

Snow visited the woods in Western Ukraine (Eastern Poland during the war), where Smart’s story took place before filming began.

“Locals from the town showed us some of the abandoned bunkers and holes where Jews hid from Nazi soldiers, Jew Hunters, and collaborators,” said Snow. “There were empty casings scattered still. All the physical evidence of the genocide is just still there in the woods.”

Snow said she had offered Smart the opportunity to join her on the trip, but he remains steadfast in never returning to where he lost his family.

Smart moved to Canada in 1948 as part of a mass sponsorship of Jewish orphans organized by the Canadian Jewish Congress. He lives in Montreal now and is an abstract expressionist artist. Smart began developing his artistic skills and creative thinking while hiding in the Polish woods, an essential aspect of his development that is showcased in the film. Snow has several of his artworks displayed in her home.

Snow began writing the script for the film during the COVID-19 pandemic and found much creative inspiration within the Beach and Upper Beaches communities.

“Walking through the old-growth forest in Glen Stewart Ravine and along the beach just feeds all the creative juices,” said Snow. “We’re so lucky here (in the neighbourhood) to have these connections to real, raw nature in an urban centre.”

The Boy in the Woods was filmed entirely in Ontario, near North Bay. Snow said that while filming the Cheating Hitler documentary in Ukraine, much of the landscape reminded her of Northern Ontario, so filming in the region made the most sense.

Rebecca Snow and Robert Budreau on the set of The Boy in the Woods near North Bay, ON. Photo: Submitted.

Snow is eager to make more films in the drama genre with historical focuses. She described her emotional pull to tell stories of the past in ways that bridge generational gaps.

“Human emotions and actions, they never change,” said Snow.

The Boy in the Woods stars Richard Armitage, Christopher Heyerdahl, Ari Millen, Jeff Klyne, Berkley Silverman and Masa Lizdek.

For tickets to the screening of The Boy in the Woods on July 4 and the Q&A to follow with Snow and Budreau at the Fox Theatre, 2236 Queen St. E., please go to purchase tickets online at  https://www.foxtheatre.ca/movies/the-boy-in-the-woods-with-director-qa-2/

The film will also be made available for video on demand screening on Friday, July 5, on screening platforms Apple TV, Google Play, Cineplex Store, Bell, and more.


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