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Chautauqua County funding may help complete documentary film on Jackson

MAYVILLE – The Chautauqua County Legislature will consider funding to help complete a documentary film on Robert H. Jackson, the Jamestown-area native who served as a U.S. Supreme Court justice and as a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

A Robert H. Jackson Center representative asked the county’s Planning and Economic Development Committee for $25,000 toward the project. A resolution for the funding, which received unanimous support from committee members last week, will go before the entire Legislature on Wednesday.

The film is titled “Liberty Under Law: The Robert H. Jackson Story and the 70th Anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials.”

Production on the documentary had been launched by a company that spent about $400,000 on the 90-minute feature, officials said. However, the producers ran short of funding and requested $150,000 from the Jackson Center for support to complete the documentary.

The Jamestown-based center, meanwhile, has raised $120,000 and expects further donations. The funding to complete the project also gives the Jackson Center rights to the movie.

Jackson spent most of his life in Chautauqua County and was raised in the Frewsburg area.

“We are looking at getting the documentary marketed into the educational systems and into colleges and universities and, of course, the real nice thing about this is it is our film and it is our documentary,” said James C. Johnson of the Jackson Center.

“We can take the documentary and dissect it and use it in our educational programming and get it into the middle schools and high schools.”

The center has plans to present the documentary this year and next year, as center planners launch 18 months of special programming to recognize the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg trials on May 4. Among the events listed on the center website are a visit by representatives of the City of Nuremberg.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to really spread the word about what happened to Robert H. Jackson,” said Legislator George Borrello, R-Silver Creek, chairman of the Planning and Economic Development Committee.

“He is obviously one of the most distinguished residents of our county, so what I would love is to see the documentary shown at the Fredonia Opera House so people can view it at the north end of the county.”

Johnson said the center also is open to showings of the documentary at local theaters. In addition, he said, there have been discussions with WNED-TV, the PBS affiliate in Buffalo, as well as other media.

Two versions of the documentary will be released – one 60 minutes and the other 90 minutes.

Jackson, who died in 1954 at age 62, was the only Western New York native to serve on the Supreme Court. He also served as U.S. attorney general and solicitor general.

In 2013, a ceremony was held to dedicate the new federal courthouse in Buffalo as the Robert H. Jackson United States Courthouse.