film production + social action

Yeah, and I Studied Parakeets

By Ben Homrighausen

Picture of one of several death pits in the Ponari forest where 70,000 Jews where murdered during the Holocaust

Some months ago while walking in the fashionable neighborhood of Angel in London I was approached by a woman asking for directions. When she realized that I was American, she asked what I was doing in her country. I told her that I was studying the history of genocide, 20th century wars and ethnic cleansing at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Annoyed, she sarcastically responded, “Yeah, and I studied parakeets in Grad school”, and walked off angrily. To many people, the idea of devoting oneself to the study of genocide is not only foreign, but unbelievable. Thankfully, this is not the case at Righteous Pictures; I knew this as soon as I watched The Last Survivor.

It is one thing to passively study genocide and an entirely different thing to transform thoughts into art for the sake of social action; this is what specifically drew me to Righteous Pictures when I recently returned to the U.S. from Lithuania after a heart-rending, Everything-is-Illuminated-like-trip with my girlfriend’s family. Over the course of a week, her grandfather, one of a small group of Polish Holocaust survivors, led us around Vilnius, revisiting both his and his wife’s wonderful early adulthood as well as recounting their later horrific experiences of what they endured in the ghetto, work camps and hiding, during the war.  It was here that I was reminded of the need for action, as well as reflection, as I walked hand in hand with my girlfriend, alive today because of the efforts of some kind Poles who hid her grandparents at great personal risk.  Recognizing the incredible odds her grandparents overcame to survive once the Holocaust had begun, I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Righteous Pictures, an organization that has allowed me to begin my own personal journey towards prevention of the world’s greatest crime.


Ben is a native of Greenwich Village, Manhattan. After spending several years abroad in Europe and Asia as an educator and student adviser, Ben returned to New York to work in the Disarmament and Peace, Political and Humanitarian Affairs Branches of the United Nations Secretariat. Before joining Righteous Pictures he returned to academia, graduating with top honors from Columbia University and the London School of Economics and Political Science with joint degrees in International and World History. His dissertation used Armenian oral history to document the role of Turkish altruism during the Armenian genocide.