Marek Dojs not only talks the talk to the future filmmakers he teaches at Southern Arkansas University, but he also walks the walk as he continues to pour his heart into his own personal film productions and documentaries.
Dojs, assistant professor of Digital Cinema at SAU, currently has three projects in the works. He is also traveling across Arkansas to spread the word about his program at SAU to potential students. He recently helped run student workshops at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and is departing for the Spring Creek Art Festival to judge student productions on October 24-25.
As Dojs will be busy judging at the festival, he is taking recent alum Michael Kornegay with him to help in recruiting. Kornegay graduated in May, and immediately got a job for SAU Communications as a photographer and videographer.
“While learning under Prof Dojs, I saw someone who was passionate about every form of work he was producing and directing,” said Kornegay. “I remember him staying till 1 or 2 a.m. to make sure we had what we needed to finish a project on time, and that it was done to the best of our abilities. His dedication showed us that he not only cared about his personal projects, but that he really cared about our work and progress.”
Dojs said that for his personal works, he focuses on the theme of identity within different social frameworks, such as nature and culture, to gender and family roles.
“Stylistically, my film work is best defined as personal essay, often marrying elements of documentary and experimental film into poetic structures,” said Dojs.
In his most recent project, “Stories from the Third Floor,” Dojs retells the stories of his grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, while examining history, generational trauma, and his own role as the family storyteller.
In 2010, he agreed to make a film with Dojs, in which the stories he so often told could be documented.His grandfather was arrested by the Gestapo in late 1943 and sent to prison. During the remaining years of the war, he spent time in four different concentration camps including eight months in Auschwitz and another eight months in Dora-Mittelbau. He was witness to some unimaginable horrors, and was forced to do terrible things.
“I spent a week with him, but every time I mentioned the camera he refused to allow me to film. So I simply listened to him,” said Dojs. “I spent time trying to understand him and to learn more about him. After my week, I had no footage, but plenty for the film – which I knew could only be made after he died. Only then would I have the freedom to retell his stories.”
Dojs’ grandfather passed away last November. He had spent the final months of his life planning a ceremony to remember executed saboteurs from Dora with whom he had work closely. The plans involved his local Parliament member’s office in England and the Dora Concentration Camp Memorial in Germany.
“Without knowledge of his passing, everything was finally approved the day after he died,” said Dojs. “While at the funeral, I met some of the staff of his local member of Parliament’s office and told them I was making a film about him. The next day I received an email from the director of the Dora Memorial inviting me to take part in the ceremony at the camp.”
Dojs spent time this summer documenting the ceremony and capturing additional footage and information for the project.
“The film seems to be taking the form of my retelling of my grandfather’s stories, with the history of the times weaved within. I will also be tackling how these stories have been told and impacted the second- and third-generation survivors, and how they can be told to future generations – especially my own children, the fourth generation survivors,” said Dojs.
Dojs is married to Madeline Dojs, who is a biology instructor at SAU. The two have five children, all of whom make appearances in his films. Dojs earned a M.F.A. in Documentary from the University of North Texas in Denton, and a B.A. in History and Communications from the University of St. Thomas in Houston.