Tuesday, February 23, 2010

300+ People Learn About An Unbroken Chain at Festival

Here's a lesson ala when life gives you lemons. Last night I attended the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival at the Harkins Camelview, not only as a board member and the PR Co Chair, but of course due to my interest in all things Holocaust to prepare for our feature film project, An Unbroken Chain. I was especially interested in meeting Dr. Michael Rubinoff, Professor of Film and Media studies at ASU and an expert on the Holocaust. To our dismay, the theater was experiencing technical difficulties, the details of which I'm not quite clear myself today, but all of the sudden, we had a room of over 300 people and nothing to show them. Like any hard working indie film producer, whose dream is to talk to a room full of film buffs, (and in my case, Jewish film buffs who were waiting to see a Holocaust feature film,) I quietly offered to run out and entertain the room with my tales of development. Ten or so minutes later, with no other solution in sight, I was offered the microphone from the very kind president of our festival, Jerry M. Oprah style, I walked down the aisle and introduced myself, as the festival's PR person, and nervously laughed that I needed to do something about the situation and so as a filmmaker, I would offer to tell them about An Unbroken Chain, my adaptation of my friend, 89 year old Holocaust Survivor, Henry Oertelt's book of the same name. I also promised not to ask them for money, but that I wanted to raise awareness of our film. I can't be sure but I think I had the floor for 20 minutes or so. I answered a few questions and even plugged the Festival's new "Film in Schools" program for educators where we bring an educational film out for students. (This year it's the story, Life in a Jar, about a Polish Catholic woman named Irene Sendler who saved over 2500 children from Warsaw.) I also nicely let the audience know that their ticket sales go toward this program as well as towards the Hospice of the Valley in hopes of stopping any uproar for refunds. Soon, Jerry relieved me and introduced our guest, Dr. Rubinoff, who would now speak before the film instead of after it. A few individuals approached me and said they had connections in Hollywood and would be glad to make introductions - one to Spielberg and one to a Jewish actress, Debra Messing, from Will and Grace. Eventually it was show time, and the scheduled film, Leo and Claire, was shown. Only 9 people requested their money back when all was said and done, so for this producer, I will say, thank you to the crowd for your kindness, and to Harkins and the Festival for the opportunity to talk to the community and practice my schpeil. Hope to see you next year with our trailer!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Video: UC Irvine Protest of Israel's Ambassador

Film shows Israel's Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, trying to speak at UC Irvine on February 8, 2010, during numerous shouts trying to drown him out. Ambassador Oren persevered, completing his remarks and commenting at the end, when most of the protestors leave the room that he wished they had stayed, as he wanted to communicate with them.

Education is our biggest tool in promoting understanding and acceptance. UC Irvine is right to discipline these students (some were allegedly going to be arrested and possibly dismissed from school) who chose to shout insults at the speaker rather than wait for the Q&A and ask him about the issues. Here in the U.S., in California, of all places, we should be able to have a dialogue with opposing viewpoints.

This is why projects like our film, An Unbroken Chain are so critical. Education is the key.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joan KW Shares #SMAZ Workshop Video w/ $6M Appeal

Thanks to Joan at Core Purpose who was nice enough to ask producer Stephanie Houser about her film project, An Unbroken Chain. Clearly, she didn't realize what she was getting into. JK! Thanks Joan!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Film in Schools helps Educate Kids about Acceptance

“Roni has tremendous dedication and single handedly has made the Film in Schools program a success, where she presents educational films to children and deals with discrimination at a grassroots level.” Nancy Stutman, Assistant Artistic Director

Roni Zee, the Artistic Director of the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival has taken on the fairly new “Film in Schools” program. This is a public and private school outreach program that helps teach brotherhood, tolerance and the difference one person can make. This year, the group is showing a film called “Life in a Jar,” a remarkable story that helps teach the Holocaust. The film is 40 minutes long, comes with a study guide and an essay contest with a cash award. Roni said that she and her husband recently visited a public middle school in rural Arizona. The school is primarily made up of Hispanic students who wear uniforms and I.D. cards to combat the violence that has occurred in the past few years.

At that school, Roni offered the essay contest, “Would you save a stranger’s life?” and the teacher sent a stack of essays. One in particular caught Roni’s attention. Roni said that the essay revealed some insights into the young author’s life and used the words, “horror and tragedy” to describe some of the very personal and upsetting events the woman had experienced in her young life. Roni says “I have been given a gift working on this project. When you read these essays and thank you’s.. they open up their souls to you. It’s very heartwarming.”

"Film is important in teaching the Holocaust because our students are visual learners. It is important for them to read about the Holocaust, but film can bring it to them in ways that they might not get through literature alone. As well, film can include survivor testimony, and as survivors are getting scarcer, that filmed testimony is all the more important. Finally, I have seen firsthand how students will go through a list on Netflix or in their local video store and will pick up a Holocaust-related movie and watch it. The unfortunate truth is that many of them would never do that with a book. That is also why film makers need to be responsible in their Holocaust films, and portray the truth, not sensationalizing it for our modern audiences."
Kim Klett, Dobson High School, Regional Education Corps, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

"Film matters in teaching the Holocaust because it individualizes the ungraspable number of six million. I told my students they could not grasp that number, but if they understood the story of one person, they have then understood the stories of the six million. Though an actual survivor is the most powerful testimony, films help establish the setting in which the Holocaust took place. They give the history a needed context."
Barbara Hatch, Cactus Shadows High School, Arizona Heritage Project, Advisor

Roni is also hosting a student film presentation on Feb. 21 at 10 a.m. called, “Blessed is the Match.” The film is for students from grades 7 through 12 and will be hosted at Harkins Camelview Five Theater in Scottsdale.

If you are a teacher or know a teacher who might be interested, contact the Film in Schools program at 800-838-3006. Our hope is that An Unbroken Chain will make its way into programs like this after its initial national theatrical release.

Incidentally the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival starts Feb. 20 in Phoenix. Visit their web site for details and tickets.