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Man who planted 10,000 trees is subject of doc film by student, alumnus

Sarah Berkovich '10 and Sarah Ginsburg '11

Hayley Peterson '13
February 18, 2011

As 85-year-old Victor Kaufmann gets ready to complete his lifelong goal -- to plant 10,000 trees -- his granddaughter, Sarah Berkovich ’10, is preparing to tell his life story in a documentary film called 10,000 Trees.

When Berkovich was a student in Assistant Professor Wyatt Oswald’s Ecology and Global Environmental Change course, she was assigned a creative project. Berkovich wasn’t expecting much to come from it. “I made a three-minute film about my grandfather using old photographs, home videos, and a letter he wrote to me,” she recalled. But “this became the spark for 10,000 Trees.”

After her classmates convinced her that the story was worthy of a larger audience, Berkovich agreed, but decided to put the project on hold because, although her grandfather’s story is treasured in her own family, she felt that nobody else would connect to it.

10,000 trees documentary

Sarah Berkovich ’10 and Sarah Ginsburg ’11 are co-producing a film about Berkovich’s father, who has planted 10,000 trees over his lifetime.

In the meantime, Berkovich had graduated from Emerson and was living in Chicago when a former classmate, Sarah Ginsburg ’11, approached Berkovich about pursuing the documentary project. Berkovich decided it was the right time.

Ginsburg, who will be working on the documentary as her senior capstone project at Emerson, said, “Despite the distance between Boston and Chicago, we’ve been corresponding multiple times every day, and we’re enveloped in the pre-production phase of the film. Now, we are just a few weeks away from flying to Portland, Oregon, to meet with her grandparents, drive up to their land in Lyle, Washington, and film her grandfather as he plants his ten-thousandth and final tree.”

Berkovich is captivated by her grandfather’s passion for the environment. “He has often explained the process of planting trees to me, and I’ve never met anyone who knows so much about plants. He knows the Latin names of everything and exactly how to take care of them.”  

Even more than his knowledge, she appreciates his determination. “Though I’m still young, I sometimes feel that if I don’t accomplish my dreams now, I never will,” she said. “I realized that achieving goals is actually a lifelong process. Goals change over time, and it is never too late to start. I think my grandfather has found the fountain of youth.” With her trip to the Pacific Northwest approaching, Berkovich is looking forward to helping Kaufmann achieve his dream.

Oswald is pleased that his former student “decided to develop her project into a documentary film, but I’m not too surprised. Emerson students are so bright and creative that you just need to get them pointed in the right direction and they can do amazing things.”

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