An Interview With Mikhail Gershteyn:The Visionary Documentary Filmmaker

Hello Mikhail! Welcome! Could you tell us a bit about yourself? Give us the official bio on Mikhail Gershteyn!

Mikhail Gershteyn (54), has been working in the movies and television production for over 25 years. He started his work, and later, his own film production company in the Ukraine, producing 2 movies and 2 historical documentaries. Between the years 1995and 1998, before immigrating to the United States, he had worked as an advertising manager, and television director and producer. He had produced about 100 commercials and directed and produced 3 weekly TV shows (musical, historical and children). Since October 1999, he has been working as an Operations Technician and later External Client Services Manager at WXXI – TV, Public Television in Rochester, NY. In July 2001, he began writing, producing, directing and editing a history segments, “Hotline History” for the local educational program, “Homework Hotline.” Mikhail also had done other productions for that show which aired across the New York State.

Mikhail Gershteyn

As an Independent Producer, Mikhail has been working on producing documentary film about Holocaust Survivors from the former Soviet Union and worked closely with late Oxford’s professor Sir Martin Gilbert.

In 2016, together with his co-producer and author Marvin Stepherson, Mikhail produced a documentary “Too Blue to be Black, Too Black to be Blue” 
In 2018 film received an award of recognition from IMPACTDoc online film festival.
Since then, film received multiple Festival Awards, including The Best Film Award at Australian Film Festival in 2021.
In 2018 Mikhail together with producer Joseph Hill finished a documentary “Black Border Warriors: Seminole Negro Scouts”,

In 2018 received the best documentary film award at Berlin’s Black Cinema International film festival. In 2019 film was presented during Pan African International Film Festival in Cannes, France. Mikhail has a Master degree in World History from Odessa State University in Odessa, Ukraine, and is a graduated from SUNY College at Brockport, NY with a Bachelor degree in Communication and Broadcasting.

Mikhail Gershteyn

Where are you based out of?

Rochester, NY

What is a quote that summarizes everything you’re about as a filmmaker?

Not sure, but perhaps: “If you think, you CANNOT, – YOU cannot, If you think YOU CAN, – YOU CAN!”

What inspired you to start creating films?

To be able to tell the stories that never been told before, to live with my heroes through their eyes and stories.
To live through the history and learn from it.

Who most inspires/influences your style and specific execution currently and why?

Ken Burns, perhaps.
He mastered the story telling process with use of the archival materials, history and people who lived through that historical periods.
Wish, one day I could work with him…

What is your favorite film of all time?

The Godfather

As a creator, what do you find to be the thing that most drives you to succeed? We like to use this portion for others to learn from you!

For an independent filmmaker without stable financial support for my projects, the most important I think is to never give-up and continue research, learn to multitask, be creative (there are other ways to tell the story even without supper expensive special effects or graphics) in the situations when you need to save money and move forward, always move forward with your project.
Depend and believe in your family and friends support, don’t be shy to ask for help!

What is your overall dream in life?

To be able to do what I love most after my family and working on Television, to be able to make films historical and biography based and perhaps one day to be able to work together with such a stars as Tom Hanks, Ken Burns, De Niro or Al Pacino, Meryl Streep or someone from the younger generation actors on one of my docudrama series project.

We also had the absolute pleasure of getting a chance to review your new project: “Unknown Heroes: Soviet Jews and The Holocaust”

If you missed that, CLICK HERE to give that a read now!

Mikhail Gershteyn

What is your role in the film?

Producer and Director

What is the film’s genre?


Could you describe a bit on what the film is about?

Throughout many years of the Holocaust studies and covering horrific events during that period, the stories of the Jews from the former Soviet Union hadn’t been covered in such a details before and the producers are planning to work on bringing their stories and history to an international viewer.
Who were the Jews of the Soviet Union? How did they live and how had they treated in their own country before, during and after war? What happened to those few, who survived Nazi’s concentration and death camps after they came back home? What is the meaning of the Holocaust for survivors from the former Soviet Union and their families?
“Christ Killers,” or “Dirty Jews” we are still the people, who live in the different countries around the World and do our work as many people around us. In our story we will tell you about people of different professions with their different paths to survive; some of the stories started long before war…

Mikhail Gershteyn

What inspired the way that you went about executing this project?

My name is Mikhail A. Gershteyn and I am a second generation Holocaust survivor. I was born a Jew in 1967 in the Soviet Union into the family of military officer. I can tell you that antisemitism in the Soviet Union didn’t begin or end with the Nazis. Before the invasion, local gangs of nationalists in Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine hunted down Jews and activists, killing or burning them and their families alive.

After I immigrated to the United States, I met an old Jewish woman from Ukraine and listened to her incredible story. Bella was almost 16, when the war started. She was in a ghetto, and the Nazis placed her and thousands of Jewish men, women and children like her in the labor camp. She ran away, but was caught by local nationalists and brought back to the camp. So she ran away again…and again. Each time she was caught and sent back. During our meeting, Bella never smiled. She passed away in 2003 never willing to tell reveal her story on camera. But I knew that there were countless other stories that had to be told.

This documentary is a journey to better understand my own past and identity, uncovering along the way testimonials of the Russian Jewish experience in World War II and beyond. We will hear previously untold stories about innocent Jewish men, women and children brutally murdered by Nazis and their followers during the War or persecuted by their own government after the war. In their stories, survivors will share what drove them and many others to leave everything behind, and to immigrate in their senior years to another country with different cultural traditions.

Mikhail Gershteyn

What was the most difficult part in the process of creating this film? How did you overcome it?

Financing is the most difficult part and still is.
Film is still in the production and post-production faze.

What was the most fun part of this entire production?

Holocaust stories not really bringing much of the fun in the production process.

What is the single greatest lesson you learned along the creation of this particular project?

I’ve finished 2 documentary films and am working on 2 more now.
The most important lesson to me is always depend on yourself and those who are close to you.

Check out the film’s poster below!

To all of our readers out there right now: you must go watch the film’s trailer now!

Thank you so much for being a part of The Film Festival Network Community, Mikhail! We can’t wait to see what you do next.


Keep up with Mikhail and all his incredible work to come!