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Warner ‘Explorations' Promo Goes Back to School With History Theme

28 Jun, 2001 By: John Jimenez

Warner Home Video is releasing the fourth wave of its Warner Explorationspromotion Aug. 28, highlighted by the Academy Award-winning documentary Into the Arms of Strangers (prebook July 31).

The fourth wave is themed “history.” Timed for the beginning of the schoolyear, it will contain such titles as Mysteries of Egypt, Secrets of theTitanic, Fires of Kuwait and three Ken Burns titles: Lewis and Clark, FrankLloyd Wright and Thomas Jefferson; as well as six others. All titles are available on VHS for between $14.95 and $29.98. The Ken Burns titles ($29.98 each), Secrets of the Titanic ($19.98) and Fires of Kuwait ($19.98) will also be available on DVD.

Probably the biggest title, however, is Into the Arms of Strangers ($19.98VHS, $24.98 DVD), last year's Academy Award winner for best documentary.

The title is about the kindertransport during World War II, in which youngchildren were sent out of Nazi Germany to safe haven in Great Britain.

“The reason I wanted to make a documentary [about the kindertransport] is that I felt it would be very rude manufacturing the story,” says Deborah Oppenheimer, the film's producer, whose mother was one of the children theprogram saved. “More than half the film is archival footage or photographs.”

Ten thousand children were put on trains out of Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia in the winter of 1938, to live with strangers. It was beforeJews were sent to concentration camps, but people “knew things were verydire,” Oppenheimer says.

Jews couldn't emigrate to safety because most countries wouldn't take them in. Great Britain agreed to give haven to the children, but only if they came alone. Most of the kids stayed in England with host families or in hostels throughout the war, with hopes of reuniting with their families. But 90% of them lost their parents during the Nazi regime.

Oppenheimer began work on the film after her mother passed away in 1993. “I wanted people to know about it,” she says.

The film, which consists of 16 interviews — 12 of adults saved in the program as children, two of rescuers, one of a British foster mother and one of a mother who survived Nazi oppression — gainsstrength from a host of extras on DVD. Some of the extras include footage of the German chancellor introducingthe film at its premiere, interviews that were cut, a meeting between England's Prince Charles and kindertransport survivors, and a “packing sequence,” an in-depth look at some of the keepsakes the children's parents packed for them.

Oppenheimer expects the title to do very well. “I'm thrilled with therecognition the film's gotten,” she says. “I think there's a great market for it. There was not an opportunity for it to be in the theater for very long.”

Warner's v.p. of special interest marketing Doug Wadleigh says Into the Arms of Strangers is a natural fit with Warner's back-to-school push. Heexpects educators to seek out the film; it is even being distributed to every high school in Germany. “We are aggressively promoting this within the school system,” says Wadleigh, noting that a percentage of a U.S. school'spurchase will go back to school systems, and the Web site will have teacherstudy guides.

Marketing for the titles includes TV, print and Web advertising, as well asa buy-three-get-one-free offer.

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