October 18, 2018

The Jewish Community’s ‘Utility Infielder’

The world was a different place for writer-director Pavel Vogler when he arrived here from Poland six years ago.

“It was very hard,” Vogler says. “There were no friends or family or supporting circle…. I started from zero…. A couple of years ago, I decided to start to make my own films.”

Since that decision, Vogler completed his first project, “Three Stories,” which has been nominated for the International Documentary Association Achievement Award. “Three Stories” will screen at the Beverly Hills Library next week.

Before moving to Los Angeles, Vogler lived in Krakow, where he directed and produced documentary films. His life as a Jew in Poland was rather sedate.

“I didn’t experience anti-Semitism,” Vogler says. “When I look back at my school years, I think I had a pretty happy childhood.”

Vogler’s initial reason for coming here had nothing to do with career aspirations. His daughter, Sara, had what doctors called Tara Syndrome — she was born with a radius absent from each forearm. Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles elected to treat her.

However, along the way, Sara set in motion the impetus for Vogler’s film.

“My daughter asked me one day why my father was still in Krakow,” Vogler says. A good question and a good premise for a film, considering her grandfather’s history.

Vogler’s father, Henryk, survived four years in and out of German and Polish concentration camps, where his bride, his parents and his sister perished. Following World War II, Henryk remained in Krakow. More than a few people, including Vogler himself, questioned this decision.

“When I asked him why,” says Vogler, “he answered, ‘Because Polish was my language before the war, and I am a writer, and this is the only way I can express myself as a writer.”

Vogler now lives in West Covina with his wife, Ivona, and their two daughters, Esther, 6, and the aforementioned Sara. After much correctional surgery, Sara, now 12, is attending Atid Hebrew Academy and looking forward to her bat mitzvah. Vogler’s next film will center around Sara’s saga and the important role Shriners Hospital played in her recovery.

As for his first film, Vogler believes that its narrative transcends personal family record, and viewers will derive inspiration from the miracles, large and small, presented in “Three Stories.”

“Somehow [my father] is still in Krakow,” says Vogler, “and somehow the culture is still there…. After all the pain [Sara] went through, she is here, growing up. Life goes on.”

“Three Stories” will screen on Thursday, Feb. 25, at the Beverly Hills Library, Community Room, 444 N. Rexford Dr., Beverly Hills. For more information and advance reservations, call (310) 471-3979.