Zak Jarvis presents: Across Frontiers – A WWII Escape Story

 Zak Jarvis Promotes His New Film:  

Ernest Day told his family little about his experience as an escaped prisoner of war in Italy during WWII, but the scraps of information that filtered through to his great-grandson, Zak Jarvis, were sufficient to fire his imagination. Zak is starting off on a career as a film director and immediately thought to himself: “What an amazing subject for a film!”

Zak, aged 20, is studying at the Northern Film School in Leeds, England. He comes from Hitchin in Hertfordshire, England, and his great-grandfather, who died in 2006, served with the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment. Captured in North Africa, Ernest was held a prisoner in the fortress at PG5 Gavi, near Alessandria, the Italian Colditz that had a large number of recaptured escapees among its inmates.

It is known only that after the Armistice with Italy in September 1943 Ernest jumped off a cattle train taking him to Germany and that he stayed on a farm with an Italian family for some time, possibly until the Allies liberated the area. After the war, Ernest kept in touch with the Italian family but information about them, or their location, has not survived.

Zak stresses that he does not want to make a film purely about his great-grandfather. “It will be a fictional narrative drama but based on and inspired by the real experiences of the many escaped PoWs. I will be pulling strands from all of the books I have read and combining them into one PoW’s journey.”

To compose the soundtrack, Zak has enlisted help from “the enemy” – in the person of Alessandro Apolloni, a graduate from the Royal College of Music, whose own grandfather fought for Italy in North Africa. “I thought it was a nice touch to have the descendants of two opposing sides of that campaign now creatively collaborating on a film about it,” says Zak.

In August Zak launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds in order to make his 30-minute film, entitled Across Frontiers. In addition to money contributed by himself and his collaborators, he is aiming to raise £5,250. He is currently 92% funded with £4,827. Crowd-funding is a service which lets filmmakers ask for contributions to fund the production of their film, in return they can give unique reward perks.

Zak Jarvis and his grandad Ernest Day.
Zak Jarvis and his grandad Ernest Day.

Anybody supporting the crowd-funding campaign will be awarded with perks. For example, for £10 you receive an advanced digital HD copy of the film before it’s official release and your name in the credits with a special thanks! For £40 you will be invited to join Zak and his crew for a day’s filming in England’s last surviving prisoner of war camp – Eden Camp.

Food and drink will be provided, and you will be given a British Army costume to play a POW extra and herded around by German soldiers. You can even join the project as an Associate Producer for £150 with a full IMDB credit, and this gets you VIP tickets to the film’s premiere and after-party. There are many more perks to choose from; you can view them and the film’s promotional video here:

Zak says it is extremely important for him to make this film because “Post-armistice Italy is a period of WWII which is hugely overshadowed by the Normandy campaign in a film the same way it was in 1944. Not many people know of the sacrifice made by the Italian Contadini for 30,000 escaped Allied soldiers, including my great-grandfather. I think this is a story which absolutely must be told because the only acknowledgement the Contadini received at the time was a paper certificate, despite risking the death penalty imposed by the Germans.”

From Zak Jarvis

Marija Jovanovska

Marija Jovanovska is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE