Award-winning The Labyrinth documentary screens at 2011 Ventura Film Festival on July 13

Top Quote Documentary on Polish Catholic artist Marian Kolodziej who survived Auschwitz screens at Ventura Film Festival on July 13. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) July 09, 2011 - The Labyrinth, the award-winning 37-minute documentary short on Polish Catholic artist and Auschwitz survivor Marian Kolodziej by award-winning documentary filmmaker Jason A. Schmidt, which received its world premiere at IDA DocuWeeks 2010 in Hollywood, screens at the 2011 Ventura Film Festival on Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 as part of a Shorts Program that screens beginning at 10:00 AM. For further information on tickets and venues, please visit:

    The Labyrinth received its world premiere on August 13th, 2010 at the International Documentary Association's 14th Annual DocuWeeks™ Shorts 2010 Theatrical Documentary Showcase, Hollywood, CA. The award-winning documentary film is the recipient of the following prizes: Two 2011 Silver Telly Awards for use of music and cinematography; The Reel Rose Award for Best Short Film (2011 John Paul II Film Festival; Miami, FL); The Redemptive Storytelling Award (2011 Redemptive Film Festival; Newport News, VA); and an Honorable Mention Award (2011 Los Angeles New Wave International Film Festival; Los Angeles, CA).

    The Labyrinth has previously screened at The 2010 Boston Film Festival;Tthe 2010 Polish Film Festival of America (Los Angeles, CA); The 2010 Plus Camerimage Film Festival (Poland); The 2011 Santa Barbara International Film Festival; The 2011 Boulder International Film Festival (Boulder, CO); The 2011 Peace on Earth Film Festival (Chicago, IL); The 2011 Beverly Hills Film Festival (Beverly Hills, CA); The 2011 Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival (Tel Aviv, Israel), The Palm Springs Intl. ShortFest and will screen at the upcoming 2011 Savannah Film Festival and the 2011 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.

    "I built Auschwitz…because I arrived in the first transport." Memory, art and hell collide as an Auschwitz survivor finally confronts the horrors of his past after 50 years of silence. Marian Kolodziej, prisoner number 432, was 17 and on one of the first transports to enter Auschwitz on June 14, 1940. Kolodziej, a Polish Catholic, survived five years imprisonment and never spoke of his experience until after a serious stroke in 1993. He began physical rehabilitation by doing pen and ink drawings depicting his memories of that horrific experience at Auschwitz 50 years earlier.

    Kolodziej's drawings and art installations, which he called The Labyrinth, fill the large basement of a church near Auschwitz. In The Labyrinth, Kolodziej takes the audience on a journey through his drawings and art installations. Through the blending of his testimony and graphic drawings, we explore the memories and nightmares that were buried for years. The documentary is eyewitness testimony to the horrors of Auschwitz that is unique in the annals of documenting the Holocaust. Marian Koldziej's story of survival and persistence, of life before, during, and after Auschwitz is a testament to courage, the power of faith and the resilience of the human spirit.

    Filmmaker Jason Schmidt notes: "Once I saw footage of Mr. Kolodziej's artwork in a documentary I previously edited, I knew I needed to make a film about his artwork, his life and The Labyrinth. My goal was to immerse the audience in The Labyrinth and ultimately they would walk out of the theater as enriched in spirit, as I was, after 'experiencing' The Labyrinth. We shot for a total of 8 days in The Labyrinth on two separate trips. Marian kept adding new drawings every month. One major challenge in editing was selecting the drawings to use, since there are probably over 300 total drawings in the Labyrinth. All of them were compelling and there was a story behind each one."

    Schmidt continues: "During interviews, Mr. Kolodziej would tell us that his art should stand by itself with no explanation and then he would start to tell us about the drawings we were standing in front of. Another challenge was insuring that the lighting was correct to capture the dungeon-like feel of the basement. Mr. Kolodziej installed hanging light bulbs similar to ones found in the barracks in Auschwitz-Birkenau and we wanted to preserve that same kind of eerie lighting while at the same time getting proper light for the drawings. Although conditions were not ideal, we felt we captured the essence of The Labyrinth and the drawings."

    Marian Kolodziej, former Auschwitz Concentration Camp prisoner number 432, was born in Raszków, Poland on December 6, 1921. After the Nazi invasion of Poland in September 1939, he joined the ZWZ (Union of Armed Struggle). On May 14, 1940, while preparing to illegally cross the Polish border he was arrested in Krakow and imprisoned. He was transferred to Auschwitz Concentration Camp in the first transport, on June 14, 1940. In the camp, he was assigned to various labor details. After falling ill, he was transferred to a sub-camp outside of Auschwitz, where he made clandestine copies of blueprints of the armaments factory for the resistance movement. He was sentenced to death for this, sent back to Auschwitz and confined to a basement cell in Block No.11 and miraculously escaped death. He survived there until the end of 1944, when he was transferred to Gross-Rosen as part of the Nazi evacuation of the camps, also known as the "death march." He was subsequently moved to Buchenwald, Germany then to Mauthausen, Austria, where he was liberated on May 6, 1945.

    Returning to Poland, Kolodziej enrolled at the Fine Arts Academy in Krakow and graduated with a degree in stage design. As his artistic career developed, he went to work at the "Coast" theatre in Gdansk as a stage designer. He also designed sets and costumes for other theatres and films in Poland and abroad. He never returned to his camp experiences in either his stage designs or his art. After nearly fifty years of silence, Kolodziej suffered a debilitating stroke in 1993. During his rehabilitation, he asked to be given a pencil and he began to draw images of his memories of his time in the camps. He died October 13, 2009.

    The Labyrinth is written, directed, edited and produced by award-winning documentary filmmaker Jason A. Schmidt who co-directed and co-produced Franz Jägerstätter: A Man of Conscience, a short documentary that won the Redemptive Storytelling Award. Schmidt also co-directed and edited the award-winning feature documentary, On the Line, a feature length documentary on the protest against the U.S. School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA which features Martin Sheen and Susan Sarandon. He was film editor and music editor on the award-winning feature documentary In Spite of Darkness: A Spiritual Encounter with Auschwitz. He is the recipient of three Silver Telly Awards. Schmidt founded December 2nd Productions in 2004 to develop and produce documentaries in collaboration with his father and producer, Ron Schmidt, SJ.

    The Labyrinth Producer Ron Schmidt, SJ is a Jesuit priest and award-winning international documentary filmmaker whose films include: Franz Jägerstätter: A Man of Conscience, a short documentary that won the Redemptive Storytelling Award; On The Line, a feature length documentary on the protest against the U.S. School of the Americas in Fort Benning, GA; In Spite of Darkness, on the annual Auschwitz non-denominational retreat and numerous other short documentary films. Two of his films were awarded Silver Telly's for best in their categories and all three films have secured international distribution. He also produced a project on the American Zen Buddhist Bernie Glassman, Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Recipe for Living a Life that Matters. Schmidt, along with his director son, Jason, is partnered in December 2 Productions to develop and produce documentaries.

    The Labyrinth creative team also includes 2-time Academy Award-winning film editor Arthur Schmidt (Forrest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit) as Executive Producer and Gregory J. Schmidt, SOC as Director of Photography. The Schmidts come from a long line of Hollywood filmmakers - their father / grandfather was the distinguished, Oscar-nominated film editor, Arthur P. Schmidt, best known for editing such classic films as Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, Sabrina and Sayonara, among many others.

    Composer Marek Żebrowski, born in Poland, has collaborated with film director David Lynch and their album of free improvisations, Polish Night Music, was released in April of 2008. Recognized as a composer with a catalog of orchestral and chamber works, piano compositions and transcriptions, and film and stage scores, Mr. Żebrowski has received commissions from Meet the Composer and The New England String Quartet, among others. Mr. Żebrowski resides in Los Angeles and serves as the Program Director for the Polish Music Center at USC and the Artistic Director of the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, California. Mr. Żebrowski is a Steinway Artist. His two books, Paderewski in California and Celebrating Chopin and Paderewski, will be published in 2010.

    December 2nd Productions was founded by Jason A. Schmidt in October 2004 to produce his first award-winning documentary On the Line. Since its founding, December 2nd has produced a variety of film and video projects, including 6 public service announcements with Martin Sheen, several music videos, and the award-winning short documentary Franz Jägerstätter: A Man of Conscience. December 2nd is in production on the feature documentary "432" The company is currently in the process of developing several short and feature length narrative films. With an extensive background in film and music, December 2nd Productions and its crew are involved from development to distribution.

    For more information on The Labyrinth, visit:

    For more information on the Ventura Film Festival, visit:

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