A Letter Without Words

Lisa Lewenz retraces the steps of her Jewish grandmother who dared to film life in Berlin during the rise of Nazi Germany.

Premiere Date
April 5, 1999
60 minutes
Funding Initiative
Open Call
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1998 Denver International Film Festival-Audience Award for Best Documentary
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    1998 Festival dei Popoli -- International Film Festival of Social Documentaries-Special Jury Prize
  • Award laurels-r Created with Sketch.
    1999 Judah Magnes Museum-Jewish Video Competition Winner
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    1999 Sao Paulo Jewish Film Festival-Best Documentary
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    1999 Women in Film and Television-"Charm City" Award, Baltimore Chapter
  • Producer

    Lisa Lewenz

    A Letter Without Words is Lisa Lewenz’s first film. Her multimedia art projects have been exhibited widely throughout the U.S. and she has been recognized with three consecutive Fulbright Research Fellowships to Germany; two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships; a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to Berlin; the 1989 Ferguson Show more Award; the Baltimore Mayor’s Commission Fellowship; numerous state arts fellowships; and residency fellowships to LaNapoule, France and Amherst College. Lewenz received broad critical acclaim for her photographic documentaries, 1984: A View from Three Mile Island, Towards a More Perfect Union, and Idol Worship/Idle Warship. She taught at New York University, the University of Illinois, and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and was primary researcher in Germany for CBS News and the Discovery Channel documentaries. She has worked as a project director with the artist Christo and as programming assistant for filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. Lewenz holds a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago (where she studied with avant-garde filmmaker, Stan Brakhage) and an MFA from CalArts. Show less

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    The Film

    For Ella Lewenz, filmmaking began as a hobby and quickly grew into a passion. She filmed her family and friends, the vibrancy of Berlin, and life in post-World War I Germany.

    Then everything changed.

    A powerful, dark force threatened everything Ella knew. Through it all, Ella kept her camera rolling.

    Years later, in an attic in Baltimore, Ella’s granddaughter found the treasure trove of edited, titled, and dated home movies providing an enduring and intimate record of a terrifying time, an extraordinary woman, and the remarkable life she led.

    Now, Lisa Lewenz retraces her Jewish grandmother's journey to bring us A Letter Without Words.