Hannah Senesh was a Hungarian Jewish resistance fighter, an optimist in the face of dire circumstances and a poet. The child of educated parents in Budapest, Hannah’s early years were consumed by her love of literature. Her emotional growth as a teenager paralleled the growth of anti-Semitism in Hungary and led her to fiercely embrace Zionism. After emigrating to Palestine, Hannah volunteered for a special unit in the British Army and parachuted into occupied Yugoslavia. She then traveled clandestinely back to Hungary to make contact with the resistance, but was arrested, tortured and subsequently executed. Her group’s bold foray was the only outside rescue mission for Jews attempted during the Holocaust.
Roberta Grossman’s inspirational documentary Blessed Is the Match, narrated by three-time Academy Award nominee Joan Allen, is a paean to Hannah Senesh’s courage and creativity. Gorgeous images of parachutes float gracefully in the air like Senesh’s words, written days before her capture by the Nazis: Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart/Blessed is the heart with the strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake/ Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame. Hannah Senesh comes to life in this film through unusually effective re-creations with actresses Meri Roth and Marcela Nohynkova, alongside interviews with kibbutz members, fellow parachutists, historian Sir Martin Gilbert and Hannah’s nephews. But perhaps what brings us closest to this brave young woman are the letters she wrote to her mother, Catherine, which capture a daughter’s hopes and dreams for herself and her people.
From 2008 Festival: Director, United States
An award-winning filmmaker with a passion for history and social justice, Roberta Grossman has written and produced more than forty hours of documentary television. She was the series producer and co-writer of 500 Nations, the eight-hour CBS mini-series on Native Americans hosted by Kevin Costner. Grossman’s feature documentary, Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action, premiered in February 2005, and has screened and won awards at more than forty festivals worldwide. Other writing and producing credits include In the Footsteps of Jesus, a four-hour special for the History Channel; Hollywood & Power: Women on Top, a special for AMC; The Rich in America: 150 Years of Town and Country Magazine for A&E, The History of Christianity: the First Thousand Years, a four-hour special on A&E, Medal of Honor, a six-part television series produced for U.S. News & World Report, and Heroines of the Hebrew Bible and Judas for the A&E series Mysteries of the Bible.
1. Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (2005) (producer)
2. Fortune Files 2: By the Numbers (2005) (TV) (co-executive producer)
3. Women on Top: Hollywood and Power (2003) (TV) (producer)
4. In the Footsteps of Jesus (2003) (TV) (producer)
5. From the Waist Down: Men, Women & Music (2001) (TV) (producer)
6. "Escape: True Stories of Suspense" (producer) (1 episode, 2000) (segment producer) (unknown episodes)
Escape from Bosnia: The Scott O'Grady Story (2000) TV episode (producer)
7. Medal of Honor (1999) (TV) (series producer)
8. The Rise of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (1998) (TV) (segment producer)
9. "Mysteries of the Bible III" (1998) TV series (segment producer)
10. "500 Nations" (1995) TV mini-series (producer)
1. Women on Top: Hollywood and Power (2003) (TV) (writer)
2. In the Footsteps of Jesus (2003) (TV) (writer)
3. From the Waist Down: Men, Women & Music (2001) (TV) (writer)
4. "Beyond Chance" (1999) TV series (unknown episodes)
5. The Rise of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (1998) (TV) (writer)
6. "Mysteries of the Bible III" (1998) TV series (writer)
7. "500 Nations" (1995) TV mini-series (writer)
1. Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (2008) (TV) (post-production)
2. Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (2005)