Experiencing Interruptions?


Saul (94, drummer) and Ruby (90, accordion), are both Holocaust survivors and musicians with an insatiable lust for life. When we started filming them four years ago they had just formed The Holocaust Survivor Band, the first of its kind. Their dream was to one day perform their music in Poland, their homeland where they endured unimaginable trauma. Their mission then, and now, is to spread a message of world peace at a time when anti-Semitism and prejudice are growing throughout the world. Through the sharing of their music and stories, they have learned that they are also healing their own wounds while revealing their resilience.

SAUL & RUBY, TO LIFE!, is a feature documentary (80 min.) directed and produced by Tod Lending, an Oscar nominated and national Emmy winning documentary filmmaker. It is a story full of comedy and tragedy as it follows the inspiring story of these two unique and unusual men. Their musical journey begins in total obscurity, playing in residential homes for the elderly and small Jewish community organizations, to then being invited to perform at venues across the country, including a coveted performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.

Eventually, they make an extraordinarily emotional journey to Poland where they relive the joys of their youth and the ensuing horrors of Nazi occupied Poland. They play a dream concert before a cheering crowd of two thousand Poles of all ages, including a group of non-Jewish Poles who provided a safe haven for Jews during the war. The story ends with a very emotional scene of them playing their instruments defiantly and triumphantly on the train tracks of Auschwitz. In voice-over, Saul warns us that the racism and anti-Semitism of today must be stopped.

During the four years we filmed we witnessed the remarkable resilience of Saul and Ruby as they both lost their wives to chronic illnesses (they died within 11 days of each other). Though devastated, they continued to pursue their ambitions while mourning their painful losses.

This unique and compelling story is about having the courage to live one’s dreams, finding purpose and meaning in life, the transcendent power of music, the complex experience of aging, surviving trauma, the power of love and family, and speaking out against anti-Semitism and bigotry. We are with Saul and Ruby every step of the way as they find joy, healing and comfort through music while confronting the past, and boldly facing the mortality of their existence today.

  • Tod Lending
    Legacy (Oscar nom., Sundance, HBO, Emmy nom.), Omar & Pete(Emmy nom.,BANFF winner, PBS/POV) , All the Difference(PBS/POV, American Showcase), The Principal Story (PBS/POV, State Dept. Selection), Vezo (Sundance, Hilton Sustainabilility award)
  • Tod Lending
    Legacy (Oscar nom., HBO, Emmy nom.), Omar & Pete(Emmy nom.,BANFF winner, PBS/POV) , All the Difference(PBS/POV, American Showcase), The Principal Story (PBS/POV, State Dept. Selection)
  • Tod Lending
    Legacy (Oscar nom., Sundance, HBO, Emmy nom.), Omar & Pete (Emmy nom.,BANFF winner, PBS/POV) , All the Difference(PBS/POV, American Showcase), The Principal Story (PBS/POV, State Dept. Selection) , Vezo (Sundance, Hilton Sustainabilility award)
  • Saul Dreier
    Key Cast
  • Ruby Sosnowicz
    Key Cast
  • Chana Sosnowicz
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Music, Road Film, Holocaust, Human Interest, Ageing
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 20 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    August 5, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    890,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    Poland, United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Miami Jewish Film Festival
    United States
    January 9, 2020
    World Premier
    Grand Jury Prize
    United States
    February 27, 2020
    Audience Award Best Documentary
  • Krakow Film Festival
    June 4, 2020
Distribution Information
  • Samuel Goldwyn Films: North American Rights only
    Country: United States
    Rights: All Rights
Director Biography - Tod Lending

Mr. Lending is an Academy Award™ nominated and national Emmy winning producer/director/writer/cinematographer whose work has aired nationally on ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, HBO; has been screened theatrically and awarded at national and international festivals; and has been televised internationally in Europe and Asia. He is the president and founder of Nomadic Pictures, a documentary film production company based in Chicago, and the Executive Director of Ethno Pictures, a nonprofit film company that produces and distributes documentary films.

Mr. Lending’s feature length documentary, Legacy, which he produced, directed, wrote, and photographed was nominated for an Academy Award® in 2001. Legacy tells the inspiring story of how members of one African-American family, filmed over a five year period, recovered from the loss of their child, broke free from welfare, overcame addiction, and escaped the specter of violence in their community. The film aired on Cinemax/HBO in the summer of 2000, was a critical success at the Sundance Film Festival 2000, and received a prime-time national PBS release in fall 2002. The film was awarded the Reel Screen Innovation in Documentary Award, was nominated for a national Emmy and two IDA awards and was broadcast internationally. In addition, Legacy inspired the creation and passing of federal housing legislation on behalf of grandparents rearing their grandchildren. The Transportation, Treasury, and Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill signed into law on November 30, 2005 included $4 million for LEGACY Housing Demonstrations.

Mr. Lending also directed, co-series produced, wrote, and co-edited the international award winning PBS series No Time to be a Child, a $1.4 million three-part documentary series that aired nationally on PBS and was a co-production with Detroit Public Television. The series of documentaries are about children overcoming the effects and consequences of violence in war-zone communities, their homes, and in situations of poverty. In addition to Lending’s national Emmy for the ABC Afterschool Special Shades of a Single Protein, documentaries in the No Time to be a Child series (Growin’ Up Not A Child, Breaking Ties, and Time to Speak) have garnered Lending numerous awards including a national Emmy nomination for Outstanding Documentary and several Casey Medals for Meritorious Journalism, New York Festival World Medals, Cine Eagles, among others.

Lending’s Emmy nominated and multi-award winning feature-length documentary, entitled OMAR & PETE, followed two men before their release from prison, and then two years thereafter. The film that he produced and directed examines the social and economic barriers that these men confront as they work at reintegrating into their communities and families. The project aired nationally on PBS through the POV series and garnered major support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Foundation for Child Development through a Journalism Fellowship in Child and Family Policy.

Lending also was the co-producer, cinematographer and director of the national PBS award winning short, ROSEVELT’S AMERICA. Shot over two years, this inspiring story is about a Liberian refugee who, after surviving torture and losing his home, brought his family to the US to rebuild their lives. AIMEE’S CROSSING, (producer, director, cinematographer) is also a half-hour film that aired nationally on PBS. It follows a female juvenile offender through her therapy inside prison, and her parole on the outside.

In 2008, Lending was awarded a 1.5 million dollar grant by the Wallace Foundation to produce, direct and photograph a documentary film and outreach project for PBS entitled, The Principal Story. This film follows two very passionate and committed public school principals as they relentlessly work to improve the educational standards for their students, over 98% of them coming from families living below the poverty line. The film aired on the Emmy-winning PBS series, POV. In addition, the film was licensed by the U.S. State Department and is being distributed to over 150 U.S. consulates around the world. A multi-year outreach project successfully used the film to influence school leadership throughout the country.

In between projects Lending executive produced The Edge of Joy, a documentary that follows two determined Nigerian doctors who are working to save the lives of pregnant women in Nigeria, a country with the 2nd highest maternal mortality rate in the world. He also produced, directed and photographed several short documentary web films in Haiti for the Center for Mind Body Medicine.

He has served as producer, director and cinematographer on assignments for Al Jazeera English. The first film, Burden of Silence, was shot in Alaska and tells the story of how several Native Alaskan women healed after being sexually assaulted. The second film, In This Room follows a couple of homeless students in Chicago who are trying to succeed despite their difficult circumstances. The third film, Dream for a City, looks at Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy by following Gary, Indiana’s first black woman mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson, working to save her city.

He also was the producer, director and cinematographer of the national PBS feature documentary, All the Difference, a film about educating young low-income African American men. While exploring issues of education and manhood, the film follows two determined young black men for five years from the time they graduate high school through college. This film is a co-production with POV, the PBS Emmy award winning series, and aired nationally on PBS in September 2016. It was also selected for a special screening at the White House and included in The American Showcase, a series of films selected by the State Department to travel the world. This film received major support from the MacArthur Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Richard H. Dreihaus Foundation.

Lending was also commissioned by the Sundance Film Institute to produce, direct and photograph the 5-minute short, Vezo (which means: to live with the sea). Shot in Madagascar, Vezo is narrated by Narcia, the 14 year old daughter of a Vezo family. She tells the story of their survival in the style of a fable. Documentary footage and the magic of sand animation are used to illustrate her story. In this simple fable, the solution to the family’s survival becomes an archetypal lesson that can be applied to other situations of poverty and hunger on coastlines throughout the world. Vezo premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2014 and was awarded the Hilton Sustainability Award. Currently, he is completing the feature documentary: SAUL & RUBY, TO LIFE.

Mr. Lending was a University of Maryland Journalism Fellow in Child and Family Policy and an advisor at the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Composer’s Lab. He has served multiple years as a jurror for the News and Documentary Emmy’s, and also juried for the Chicago International Film Festival, Guangzhou International Film Festival, among others.

His work has garnered major grants from the Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Sundance Film Institute, Wallace Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Child and Family Foundation, Philadelphia Psychoanalytic Foundation, Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Houlsby Foundation, U.S. Office of Education, Chicago Community Trust, and the Sundance Fund.

Lending has also worked as a freelance cinematographer for other independent filmmakers and broadcasters including A&E’s First Forty-Eight: Missing Persons; CNN’s Chicagoland, PBS’s
Out of Many, One and Frontline.

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