Ann Michel

AEM at Dom Kultury Sept 2015  DSC00003.jpg

Director, Researcher, Writer, Editor 

Was born in 1957 in the United Kingdom. She grew up in Europe and New York City. She studied mathematics at Cornell University. She is the founder of Insights International Inc., a production firm specializing in science and educational on-line, TV and theatrical events. She has also served as President of The Robert Flaherty Film Seminars.


Phil Wilde

Director, Researcher, Writer, Cinematographer

Was born in 1951 in New York, USA. He studied science at Cornell University, where he became involved in the politics and art of video production in the 1970s. Since then, he has produced, directed, photographed, and written numerous films and videos about science, technology, and social issues. He is a principal and owner of Insights International.


Jon Hilton

Audio Post-Production, Sound Mix, Music Composition, Music Performance, Special Sound Effects

Operates Hiltronex Sound Studios in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1968, Hiltronex specializes in sound production for radio, television, film, multi-media, and theatre; musical and SFX scoring for video and film; audio for video post-production; digital sound editing and album mastering for CD, professional S-VHS editing, electronics design and installation.  Hilton has worked for PBS, WGBH, CBS, Carl Sagan, Cornell University and many other high profile clients. He collaborated with Michel and Wilde in 1983 on Daniel Reeve’s award-winning experimental video documentary on the Vietnam War, Smothering Dreams.  He has continued his collaboration with Michel and Wilde for over three decades on documentary and animation projects.





Selected Filmography of Ann Michel and Phil Wilde:

Hardscrabble Childhood (documentary, 1989, USA)

100 Short Films About Water (short documentary and animation, 2007, USA)

Breast Cancer and the Estrogen Connection (animation, 2008, USA)

What Works (documentary, 2010, USA)

Landscapes (theatrical multimedia projections for classical music concert, 2015, USA)






Bernard Gaida

Is the head of the German Minority in Poland. He is a prominent citizen of Dobrodzien. Gaida introduces the filmmakers to the recent history of Bzionkow.


Mr. Hubert

Was born in 1942. He grew up in Bzionkow. He lived at Bzionkow with his mother until she died about ten years ago. He is the only person living at Bzionkow now. His mother worked for Ann Michel’s great-grandparents in the 1930s. He has many memories of prior decades at Bzionkow. He maintains the mysterious grave on the property.


Ingo Kottkamp

Is a German producer with Deutschlandradio Kultur in Berlin.  He published Ann Elisabeth Jessen’s feature-length radio documentary, Guten Tag auf Polnisch.  He organized the radio show’s community listening event in the Dobroteka, Dobrodzien.


Pawel Mrozek

Is a retired art teacher in Dobrodzien. He is a local historian and the author of many books on Dobrodzien. He also created local historical road signs. He worked with the filmmakers to verify the ownership of Bzionkow, and help them understand the history of the region.


David Ost

Is a Professor of Politics at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  He is a specialist in Polish political transformation, and author of many influential books and articles on Eastern Europe.  He served as the filmmakers’ interpreter and cultural guide in Poland, and introduced them to many influential Poles in both Poland and New York.


Mikolaj Smolenski

Is a Wroclaw-based architect.  He arranged architectural tours of Wroclaw for the Cornell University students.  He participated in the critique of the student proposals for reviving Bzionkow at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.  Smolenski connected the filmmakers with the Polish architecture community and represented projects to local officials in Dobrodzien.




Monika Hemperek

Is a radio producer, Lublin, Poland. She made the initial contacts and arrangements in Dobrodzien. She created the Polish version of Ann Elisabeth Jessen’s feature documentary, Guten Tag po Polsku , which won a National Journalism Prize, in Katowice, Poland, in 2015.  


Ann Elisabeth Jessen

Is the Danish radio producer who conceived the original radio feature and researched the story. She wrote and produced the radio feature, Guten Tag auf Polnisch. She helped organize the Dobroteka listening event in the film.  Ann Michel names her “Pandora”.


Aleksandr Mergold

Is an Assistant Professor of Architecture at Cornell University. He was born in Uzbekistan and is now an American citizen. He brought 13 of his senior design students in architecture to Bzionkow to study how it might be rejuvenated.


Aleksandra Mucha

Grew up in Dobrodzien.  Her grandfather was the director of Bzionkow when it was a state agricultural farm (in Polish,Państwowe Gospodarstwo Rolne or PGR),  a form of collective farming in the People's Republic of Poland during the communist era. She wrote the essay that alerted the filmmakers that Udo von Schweinichen was the owner of Bzionkow.  Mucha’s essay does not mention Ann Michel’s great-grandparents, Salo and Else Hepner.


Marian Rust

Is the current owner of Bzionkow.  A local resident, he is also the owner of Meble Rust, a Dobrodizen firm specializing in the design and manufacture of modern kitchens.


Bolko von Schweinichen

Is the son of Udo von Schweinichen, who owned Bzionkow from 1942-1945. He showed the filmmakers physical proof of the ownership of Bzionkow – the mortgage document and property maps which specify the sale of Bzionkow from King Frederick Augustus III, the last King of Saxony, to Ann Michel’s great-grandfather.  Von Schweinichen expresses heimat for Bzionkow.