Read the screenplay –> Gravestones

Screenplay by Alan Nafzger

The screenplay/film is a contemporary drama. It takes place in the fictional small town of Beyerberg Texas. The story begins with the return of Frank Beer to his hometown in rural Texas after having lived in Austin for college. He learns that his sister Jo has won a prestigious science fair award for building a ground-penetrating radar. Strangely enough there is a lot of commercial interest in her invention, but she is seriously less than interested. She seems to be spending all her time mapping the ground under the city streets.

Frank and Joe are totally disconnected from their parents. At the dinner table, the father sits and quietly eats; basically all the man does is farm. He rises with the sun and only returns to the farmhouse for lunch and supper. The mother is very chatty at the table. She is very domestic and speaks of curtains and green beans and rain for her garden. The only thing the father is willing to comment on is the chance of rain. He listens to talk-radio all day as he works but has nothing really to add.

Frank and Jo have escaped the farm. Jo is consumed by books and mechanical and electrical engineering. She is an excellent student at the high school and destined to be the valedictorian. Frank has escaped the farm and been an engineering student at a major state college. He has an engineering job in San Francisco that begins in January. He has returned to the farm after graduating; his plan is to stay until he moves to California.

Frank also learns that each Friday night when most of the city is at the football game. Jo is digging up the sidewalk of the main street to retrieve dozens of Jewish tombstones. She is aided by her boyfriend and her father’s farming equipment. Jo has discovered the grave markers were taken from a Jewish cemetery and were used by townspeople during World War II as the sidewalk paving stones in front of the downtown businesses.

Jo is gathering the tombstones everywhere in the settlement and moves them into his own field to survive from oblivion. Against the growing opposition of the town residents, the Beer siblings attempt to learn more about what happened to the Jews of the village. Their personal relationship, harsh after the siblings met, warms and becomes more cooperative after they both find themselves opposed by the whole village.

An older teacher supports Jo and urges him to continue gathering the tombstones while the young teacher, to head the school soon, displays no sympathy for Jews.

Frank discovers in a local archive that his grandfather along with other men of the village got the Jew’s land at a very unfair price when Jews were violently run out of the area during the war. At the heart of the story is the fact that most of the Beer farm was stolen from the Jews. If the truth were uncovered the family might be forced to return the land or at least the Beer family name would be tarnished.

Jo has been storing the grave stones in her father’s hay barn. But the barn is mysteriously burned one night.

Jo, the school’s best student, is eager to study the truth. They later realize that half the residents burned the homes of the Jewish families. A Jewish man that resisted was killed and his body buried. This discovery results in a terrible argument and split between the siblings after a dispute about the bones of the murdered Jew they found the night before.

Frank leaves the small town but is returns to the village by the policeman to see his sister beaten and raped in their own yard.

Jo and Frank dig the stones out from under the barn rubble and they erect the stones at the location of the old Jewish cemetery.


Jewish Gravestones
Old Jewish Cemetery Medzhibozh

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