Local Film Shown in Israel & Across US for Yom Hazikaron

A Green Kippah, a film directed and produced by Philadelphia’s Sally Mitlas, was aired numerous times throughout Yom HaZikron on Israel’s Channel 10.

This moving documentary, originally created for Philadelphia’s 2011 Yom HaZikron ceremony, chronicles the lives and tragic death of three Pennsylvania Jews: David Solomonov (z”l), Rita Levine (z”l) and Michael Levin (z”l).

All three heroes died in the prime of their lives — through an act of terror, a sniper’s bullet and defending Israel’s border — reminding us that when Israel loses a son or daughter, it is felt by every Jew around the world.

Following the Channel 10 screenings, Sally received a flood of emails from Israelis who were moved by the documentary. One said

I have just finished watching the movie Green Kippah on Israeli television. I would like to thank you for sharing these stories with us. It is because of families like you, who have a deep love for Israel, that all of us can have quiet peaceful lives. My heart and love is with you…

A Green Kippah was screened at many memorial ceremonies and educational programs across our region (and in the U.S.) including locally at Drexel University, Kohelet Yeshiva High School, and Politz Hebrew Academy.  

Genocide in the 21st Century

The Last Survivor explores the idea of genocide in the 21st century as a platform for social action.

— by David Felder, Nancy Strong and Sharon Shore

The term “genocide” is of relatively recent origin. It was first coined by Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959), a Polish-Jewish legal scholar, in 1944. Lemkin’s idea of genocide as an offense against international law was widely accepted by the international community and was one of the legal bases of the Nuremberg trials.

While most of us would prefer to think of genocide as something that belongs to another place and time, it is in fact, an evil that has occurred on nearly every continent in every century, and affects us all as human beings.

On January 28, 2012, Congregation Beth Hamedrosh of Wynnewood will present a program on genocide in the 21st century. The program will be informative and practical, focusing on specific actions that can be taken by individuals and organizations to help survivors of genocides in the 21st century. It will include a showing of the powerful documentary film, The Last Survivor, and a presentation by Dr. Henri Parens.

More after the jump.
Dr. Parens is a Holocaust survivor and a Professor of Psychiatry, Thomas Jefferson University, and a Training and Supervising Analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia. There will be an opportunity for discussion following Dr. Parens’ presentation.

The Last Survivor is a character-based, feature-length documentary that follows the lives of survivors of four different genocides – The Holocaust, Rwanda, Darfur, and Congo. By presenting these stories of loss, survival, and hope side by side, the film highlights the commonalities these individuals share, both as survivors and, more broadly, as human beings. Shot on location in five countries across four continents, the film focuses on the universality of the horror of genocide, combating the misguided
notion that genocide is something that happens “over there.” The Last Survivor has received national and international recognition including numerous film festival awards for best documentary.

The program will take place at 7:30 PM on Saturday, January 28, 2012 at Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, 200 Haverford Road, Wynnewood, PA. The charge for admission is $5.00 in advance and $8.00 at the door. Tickets can be obtained by contacting the synagogue office at (610) 642-6444.

Congregation Beth Hamedrosh is a mutually supportive community of families and individuals who are looking to grow, enjoy and share in an Orthodox way of life. We welcome Jews of all backgrounds and levels of observance. Through programs such as this presentation of The Last Survivor, CBH seeks to better understand how the Jewish community should respond to events in both the United States and the world.

Bonnie Squires Honored At Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival


Bonnie Squires, president of Squires Consulting, was  honored by the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival at its recent New Filmmakers Festival at the Gershman Y,  for her 25 years as vice-chair of the PJFF and her role in creating the New Filmmakers Festival.  She is seen here with Louis Coffey, Esq., chairman of the board of the Gershman Y, who made the presentation.

Gei Oni, a film review


Gei Oni, directed by Dan Wolman
(2010, 105 minutes, Hebrew, Yiddish, and Arabic with English subtitles)

— Ben Burrows

Gei Oni, a film by Israeli producer-director Dan Wolman, was shown this weekend at Drexel University as part of the Philadelphia Israeli Film Festival. Wolman introduced the film, and took questions afterward. A film of light or darkness, of wide expanses or of tightly enclosed spaces, the cinematography is gorgeous, and focuses the audience on its major characters, Fania and Yechiel, with its deceptively simple visual palette. Fania arrives in Jaffa from late 19th century Russia with her baby daughter in tow, accompanied by Shuvale Mandelstam, who may be her husband, but later claims to be her uncle. They are fleeing the Russian pogrom, which killed Fania’s parents, and which has driven her brother Lolik mad and silenced. They are surprised when their relative in Jerusalem has not come to meet them at the port, and Shuvale travels to Jerusalem — only to find his relative, a newspaper editor, has fallen on hard times — so the new immigrants must rely on the charity of strangers. While Fania waits for Shuvale to return, she meets Yechiel, a recently widowed local farmer with two children from his previous marriage. Yechiel is clearly stricken by Fania’s beauty, although he must know she possesses few household skills, when she causes a small explosion while lighting a lantern near the hotel where she waits for Shuvale to return. A marriage is quickly arranged and celebrated, but there is a dark secret which prevents Fania from consummating the relationship. She tells Yechiel that she still mourns the death of her daughter’s father. Yechiel decides to accept her reluctance for the time being, and accepts responsibility to support her brother Lolik. Shuvale retires from the scene, and the new family returns to Yechiel’s village of Jauni.

More after the jump.
Wolman admitted during questioning to a number of interests in making this movie, from the novel Gei Oni by Shulamit Lapid. He wanted to portray a time when Jews actually purchased land from their Arab neighbors. He was interested in the positive romantic aspects of the novel, and did not include Yechiel’s death from malaria or Fania’s remarriage, as dramatic over-complications. He wanted to portray the different Jewish, Syrian Christian, and Arab Muslim cultures coexisting uncomfortably, with different levels of communication layered by the different practical experiences of male and female experience. As I watched the story unfold, I could not help but see parallels between the story of Fania and Yechiel with the stories of Sarah and Avraham. For so long as they pretended that Sarah was Avraham’s sister, the patriarchal couple brought plague to the land of Egypt, where they were sojourning. For so long as Fania kept her secret shame from Yechiel, one misfortune after another befalls the little settlement of Jauni. The Zionist and Biblical patriarchal couples seem equally distant to the modern eye, and both situations are resolved by a return to the Land, the Divine provision of additional people and resources, and the discovery of their mutual love for one another. By the final scene, Yechiel and Fania have brought new life into the world, and the village has begun to produce wheat from their rocky and difficult terrain.

Gei Oni is celebrated as an early feminist Israeli novel. The Jewish Women’s Archive describes Lapid’s Fania and her place in Israeli literature:

After several collections of short stories, Lapid first gained readers’ attention with her popular novel, … , which was the first Israeli book to be labelled “feminist.” Its feminism is, however, displaced, the action taking place in Palestine of the 1890s, thereby establishing a precedent in Israeli fiction for masking feminist protest by historical distancing. Framed in a narrative about first-settlers struggling with a harsh motherland, in a culture that kept gender roles distinct and separate, Lapid’s heroine, Fania, stands out in her attempt to cross boundaries. She is both mother and merchant, venturing out on the road alone, even defending herself against armed Arab horsemen when attacked.

The author had a life of her own, and made a family with Tommy Lapid, of blessed memory. Tommy Lapid was a member of the Knesset, and a champion of secular Shinui Party, which fought the influence of haredi restrictions into everyday Israeli life. Later in life, Tommy Lapid directed Yad VaShem: Preserving the Past to Ensure the Future.

Gei Oni had a difficult time finding distribution in Israel, despite Wolman’s extensive oeuvre, and his track record at attracting audiences. After being rejected multiple times, Wolman at last found a distributor willing to show his film. When Wolman saw the terms of his contract however, he saw that he might never be paid a cent, after the costs of the distributor (never enumerated) were subtracted off the top. When Wolman asked for a more specific enumeration of costs, or for an estimate of audience head count which might be required to achieve some payback, none was forthcoming. It was then that Wolman decided to arrange for his own private distribution of the film, at theaters who had shown his films in the past. He wrote and emailed everyone he could, and urged his friends to see the film in the first two weeks, explaining his predicament. The guerrilla distribution plan worked, and the film’s success in Israel has brought the film here to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Film Festival

The 19th annual Philadelphia Film Festival will feature 216 screenings of more than 100 domestic and international narrative and documentary films, as well as a multitude of fantastic short films. The Festival will also include exciting VIP receptions and events, a variety of panels with industry professionals and some very special guests. Films will be shown October 14 to 24 utilizing 11 different screens in 6 venues throughout Philadelphia as well as at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

Gerrymandering

Above to the right is a clip from the movie Gerrymandering featured

One of politics best-kept secrets, Gerrymandering takes a detailed look at this outdated political loophole, effectively explaining both its origins and the logic behind abolishing this act forever. Every ten years when the results of the census are returned, district lines are redrawn to match the current population trends; Gerrymandering refers to the practice of allowing incumbent politicians to determine where those lines fall, and as one commentator says, “Lines never happen by accident”. Wielding the pen, politicians can make their districts look however they’d like, contain whoever they like, and exclude whoever they don’t. It is a tool that transcends party lines, and is used by both Democrats and Republicans. When done “correctly,” it all but silences the voices of any minority (be they racial, ethnic, political) the incumbents deem threatening. Our democracy is built on a system of checks and balances: if a politician does a good job, his constituents re-elect him, and if he does a poor job, he is replaced. This effective, well-paced documentary by first-time filmmaker Jeff Reichert poses a simple scenario: what happens when the people’s power to speak out against unwanted politicians is revoked? By highlighting California’s 2008 campaign to pass Proposition 11, which changes the policies that allow Gerrymandering to occur, and featuring insight from top analysts, activists and politicians, Gerrymandering explores what happens when a population’s voice is silenced not by oppression, but by loopholes. You may never have heard of Gerrymandering before, but after watching this doc you’re sure to have an opinion on the practice. — Jared Miller