‘I could not stop crying’: Holocaust survivor Maxwell Smart sees his life story adapted for film

Holocaust survivor Maxwell Smart on the set of the film 'The Boy in the Woods', now available digitally on-demand. (Photo courtesy of Photon Films)

At the onset of the Holocaust, after Maxwell Smart’s family began being targeted and killed in Nazi-occupied Europe, he became separated from his mother, who made one final request of her young son: “Please run away.” He did as he was told. He ended up spending one and a half years living in the cold, desolate woods of Eastern Europe, meeting and making friends with other young Jews until liberation.

As one of Canada’s best-known living Holocaust survivors, Smart—who moved to Montreal after the war—has told his story many times before to schools, museums and journalists. Now it’s the plot of a new film, The Boy in the Woods, which premiered in late 2023, and this month became widely available digitally on-demand through many streaming services.

Smart joins The CJN’s arts podcast Culturally Jewish to share his story and feelings about bringing his story to the silver screen, while filmmaker Rebecca Snow explains how she met Smart and why she decided to make the leap from documentary to narrative film with such heavy subject matter.


Culturally Jewish is hosted by Ilana Zackon and David Sklar. Our producer is Michael Fraiman, and our theme music is by Sarah Segal-Lazar. We’re a member of The CJN Podcast Network. To support The CJN and receive a charitable tax receipt, please consider a monthly donation by clicking here.