"We often remember courageous acts by individuals, but in this case it is an entire community...And it was so rare at a time when the rest of the world was silent."Belle Jarniewski, Freeman Family Foundation
A persecuted family on the run... Sacred books hidden for their protection... A 60 year old promise - unfulfilled but not forgotten... BESA: The Promise weaves Albania's heroism in WWII through the modern day journeys of two men.
One is Norman Gershman, a renowned American photographer determined to document first-person accounts of the Albanians who rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
The other is Rexhep Hoxha, an Albanian shopkeeper. Rexhep must fulfill the promise made to a Jewish family his Muslim father rescued during the Holocaust and return to them a set of Hebrew books they left behind.
And Rexhep's promise is more than words — it's part of his besa — an honor code that, among other things, pledges all Albanians to offer safe harbor to refugees.
With Norman's help, Rexhep embarks on a journey to Bulgaria and Israel. His quest brings about an epiphany that he is part of this Jewish family — even as his Islamic faith, long supressed under decades of communism — is affirmed. Through the stories of Rexhep and his fellow Albanians, we discover a nation of everyday heroes. And through the experiences of Norman Gershman and the first-person accounts of Jewish survivors, we hear stories of gratitude that have gone unheard for almost seventy years. It is a story that that bridges generations and religions ... uniting fathers and sons ... Muslims and Jews.
More than five years in the making, Besa: The Promise presents a powerful human drama compounded by a devastating twist. Selected for a prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Bridging Cultures through Film grant, the documentary was further honored by the interest of one of America's greatest living composers, Mr. Philip Glass. Portraits by renowned fine art photographer Norman H. Gershman are blended with animation, rare archival film, poignant interviews with witnesses and extraordinary verite' lensed by the award-winning Neil Barrett. Directed by Rachel Goslins and edited by Christine S. Romero, the film is JWM Productions first feature documentary.