IF you had just five months to live, what would you tell your children?
That is the premise of a documentary about late NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBOD) past president Jeremy Spinak – who passed away in November 2018 from a rare cancer – as he faced his mortality and set about leaving a legacy for his twins Grace and Michael.
The film being made by documentary filmmaker Mitzi Goldman – Spinak’s first cousin – is currently in post-production with a view to airing it on the ABC’s Compass in August this year.
Goldman told The AJN when Spinak was first diagnosed he called to ask her to make a documentary “so that the children will know who I am”.
“I think that from the earliest days he had a sense that he was not going to survive,” she said.
“He tried everything and he was fighting to survive, but he was also very much a realist.
“He just kind of set about, with this incredible foresight really, putting on the record what really mattered most to him and what’s meaningful in life.”
Goldman said the five months during which she conducted in-depth interviews, filmed Spinak spending time with family and children and walking around Centennial Park deep in his own thoughts was “a really special time”.
“As sad as it was and difficult in certain respects, it was also quite a privilege and an honour to be able to do this for the family,” she said.
In working with him, she found the person she had known as her “little cousin” had become “an incredible man” with wisdom to share on leadership, bringing people together, problem solving and what it is to be a good friend.
“All of those values that he actually lived … he speaks about in a very raw and immediate way to his children,” she said.
She realised there were lessons to share more broadly, hence the decision, made with the Spinak family, to produce a separate broadcast version.
“It is actually really insightful and universal in terms of what we all need to think about how we live a meaningful life,” she said.
“[It] will really honour his legacy and there are a number of interviews I’ve done with other people who worked very closely with him who also tell part of his story.”
Anyone else who knew Spinak is encouraged to contact Goldman, who has also launched a fundraising campaign to cover the costs associated with producing a broadcast version.
To contact Goldman or donate: documentaryaustralia.com.au/project/jez.