Monday, January 16, 2017


The Dream lives on...

It's MLK day today. I took my son to the MLK parade in Crenshaw.  It was a try powerful event. It was my first time going to the MLK parade and it seemed that it wasn't just a parade to commemerate Martin Luther King as it was a FREEDOM parade inwhich many groups that have been fighting for social justice, equality and freedom were all marching together.
Times they are a changing sang Bob Dylan so many decades ago - and the words of his song are just as relevant today as they were back then. Times are a changing and each decade new groups are finally standing up and demanding their own freedom.
Just like the Jews stood up after World War 2 and realized that it's time they demand NEVER AGAIN - they will never be treated like sheep going to be slaughtered -
Just like low wage workers united - and created unions - so that they will not be oppressed by their employers.
Just like African American united and demanded never to be treated like second class citizens
Just like Women united and demanded equal rights to men

There are still so many groups that have not come our of the shadows demanding their equal rights and when they start demanding it - they get punished - cause not enough of their members bonded together to become powerful enough to force real change.

Jews once a year celebrate Passover - one of the most important celebrations for Jews. In that night - all Jews around the world state that each and every person must see himself as if he left Egypt.

Every Jew must remember that freedom that has been so hard fought for - can be so easily taken away from us.

Looking at all the different groups marching in the streets - I remember that old Jewish saying which never really resonated with me. Here, in Crenshaw, for the first time in my life - that sentence finally struck home.

It seems that as much as humanity has advanced forward - there are many who are trying to push it backwards.

ALL HUMANS deserve to be free. We are all God's children. And we must fight for everyone's freedom - cause the minute we as citizens of the world allow one group to be oppressed and their freedoms to be taken - we are opening the door that will eventually allow someone to take our own freedoms.

Freedom seems like something that can never be taken away once it was given - but that's an illusion. History shows us again and again and again - how easily freedoms can be taken entirely from anyone. My grandfather was a very proud German. He even fought as a German soldier in World war 1. Then, the regime changed and suddenly from a proud citizen of his country - he was a fugitive running for his life from the Nazi regime that wanted to kill him and take his property.
One second a person is a proud vet and an honorable doctor in a society - the second moment the person is hunted in an attempt not only to take his freedom but also his life.
One of the most modern and civilized nations in the world - turned so quickly into one of the most barbaric nations in human history.
It happened in Germany. It can happen anywhere.
That is why it is so important to remember that all of us must always support those who are fighting for their freedoms - cause they are not just fighting for their own group - they are ensuring that all of us will continue to be free.

Marting Luther King day 2017.
so many years have passed - but the dream lives on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017



What is real and what is fake? That is the question in our modern world where we are surrounded by so much information and it's simply impossible to know what is real and what is not.
The old, reliable and most respectable news sources in the United States all had polls show that Hillary Clinton winning while online websites that were being trashed for months as showing fake news had polls showing Donald Trump winning.
In hindsight who was real and who was fake? Did the old and reliable news sources show real polls or did they manipulate them in some way or other to try to influence the outcome of the election?

It doesn't matter who a person supported for president - the issue is - if the news sources are proven wrong again and again and again can we continue to trust them?

In the past, editors would choose what would make the front page of the newspaper and become the national discussion of the day and op eds by famous thinkers in the important newspapers would be one of the most important way to influence the discussion.

But perhaps the problem isn't with any newspapers. Perhaps newspapers have always mixed real and fake news to try to influence their readers rather than just report the news.

Perhaps the discussion of fake news is simply the last hurrah of a dying elephant called mainstream news.

The online world has democratized news. Even I that loves news, find myself learning more about the world outside my own not by any major news source these days but mostly from Facebook and by interesting articles my friends post.
Since all the large mainstream media have been caught bluntly lying so many times in recent years - I find myself trusting the random commentary of my friends on facebook much more than I trust any op ed anywhere.

Humans like all animals have a strong instinct to be free - and all humans, at the end of the day, want to feel they are above anything else free thinkers.

Humans need to feel their information is real and that they as free thinkers are making up the decisions about their own opinions in a free way after weighting both sides.

But in a world where both the left and the right wing mainstream media are constantly caught lying - it seems - it will be the people's court on Facebook and other social media that will become even more important in the future than now - as the place where people will not only learn about the news but also make up their mind about it.

And as always, corporate America is feeling the beat of the people as fast as it changes and moving it's ad dollars from the dying corporate media that is becoming less and less relevant to us to the social networks - trying to figure out how to influence us also there.
Cause unlike the news about politics that takes years from any decision that is made to each and every one of us actually feeling it -
Corporations at the end of the day - want our money now. They want us to buy their soda, jeans, sneakers, health, happiness, car or lifestyle.
So they need to figure out what's real for us - so they can persuade us in that reality we trust as real that we need their products to make our life better.

I think people in our 21st century - have evolved beyond fake or real news - perhaps it is all entertainment and it is all just a backdrop for selling us something.

Perhaps that is the biggest change of people 2.0 - that for kids growing up with cell phones - they understand everything is a market - and everyone's just trying to sell you an app - politicians,  non profits, journalists, your friends showing their latest pictures from their awesome party or vacations, soda companies - it's all the same.  It's a sellers world. It's all just as real as it is fake.



Saturday, May 17, 2014

Are we approaching the age of unemployment?

Our latest article in the Hollywood Journal:

Are we approaching the age of unemployment?

Are we approaching the age of unemployment?

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
Some say that in order to fulfill humanity’s entire needs in the future, only 30% of the population will need to work. The other week Joao Gomes, professor of finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, published an article titled: Is America giving up? In it he says that in 1999, 74% of working-age Americans were employed. Nowadays it’s 67.4%. That drop represents a loss of about 14 million positions.
His article is one of several in the last few months that are all depicting this new reality. Those articles predict that there’s a chance that in less than 30 years the world will experience the age of unemployment — an era in which the majority of people will have very little chance of finding a job.
What would our lives look like in a reality where the majority of people are unemployed? Predictions vary. Imagine a world where 70% of the people are unemployed and are either at home trying to fill their day with meaning, or out and about trying to find things to do while they wait for some job opening that might never happen?
Throughout modern history, as technology advanced, some jobs were eliminated, while others were created. Think about the time before refrigerators, when there were people whose job was to cut ice from lakes and store it for the warmer months. But with the invention of the refrigerator, suddenly there was need for refrigerator manufacturers, refrigerator stores, refrigerator movers, refrigerator technicians, used refrigerator parts suppliers, etc.
So can a society exist when a majority of its members are unemployed? Even if the work of 30% is enough to take care of the 100%, what are tens of millions of people to do if they are not needed?
While Hollywood films and TV constantly invent reasons for a chaotic futuristic world, reality seems to be supplying us with a very real reason for a troubled new existence. This might be the most dangerous asteroid about to hit the human race. We could make a movie about it… because when so many people will be roaming the streets aimlessly, they might be looking for some good entertainment. Will our industry actually be the one benefitting from this asteroid?
The cheapest form of entertainment for all those jobless people will be free videos on TV and the web. We are already seeing many big players entering the online world and creating TV-like channels and production studios – including Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo, and Microsoft.
So perhaps while the amount of people working in other industries drops, the amount of people working for the entertainment industry might actually rise. But the real question for Hollywood will be: what content will those 70% be looking for?

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Redefining community

Redefining community

Redefining community

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
The last few years have been revolutionary in terms of our perception of community. Back in the old days, community was the neighborhood we lived in. It was our local coffee shop, our local diner, our local newspaper stand, our local grocery shop. When we traveled, we got a sense of physical distance from all the things that made up that community.
But as everything became more corporate, our local coffee shop became Starbucks and our local grocery store became Trader Joe’s or Costco. No matter where we went, we seemed to be at the same distance from those familiar places, and that helped people move from one place to the next. With the ease of moving, the concept of community was changed.
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites are becoming a new alternative to community. One is more updated on the lives of people living across the country or in another continent than on the lives of the people living next door. You see pictures of intimate moments of their lives — birthdays, weddings, babies smiling. You can read their thoughts when they are celebrating or grieving. You can share in their musical tastes and learn about their political views on an ongoing daily basis.
So while some might say this is a virtual community, to us it feels very real. While we might not actually be with them in all these moments, we are still there in spirit. We probably know more about some of our virtual friends than we know about some of the people living on our street (unless they are already our FB friends).
This new sense of community is redefining our world. And yet, many people still feel as lonely as ever. Is it human nature to feel alienated from the real world no matter what the virtual reality can offer us?
Only time will tell if our new world – with its new communities – will succeed in meeting our emotional needs.
Or if our sense of loneliness will force us to continue searching for what makes a real community, in a world where the virtual world seems more constant than our constantly changing real world.
It will be interesting to see how Hollywood tackles all these changes. At the heart of many movies is the sense of community. The fact that the idea of community itself is changing will have to change the essence of motion pictures itself. For now, TV – which always mirrors the zeitgeist – reveals two directions in dealing with this theme:
On one hand it shows us that audiences crave TV shows about family as a way to feel less alienated. Some of the most successful TV shows right now are Modern Family and The Goldbergs, which remind us that as flawed as family is – it is ours and it will always be there as a stable element in our lives for good and for bad.
On the other hand, hit shows like Orange is the new Black and Revolution, reaffirm to many the idea that in the modern world there is no community anywhere and we can’t trust anyone. Not even our families. Not in prison nor in a futuristic world where electricity has destroyed the idea of a virtual community and mankind is back to basic survival mode.
Our sense of community is evolving. Hollywood will continue to reflect on this evolution. And for all of us working here trying to capture the essence of our time, the questions will be: What do people want from their community? What does their community require from them, and how does that community justify its existence?

Monday, March 03, 2014

What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality

Yes, there is a connection between pot legalization and net neutrality. See us connect the dots at our newest blog in the Hollywood Journal. Please share.

What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality

What pot legalization tells us about the importance of net neutrality

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus
Pot legalization is making significant headlines lately with both Senator Harry Reid and President Barack Obama making positive comments about it. As thedocumentary we are working on demonstrates, a major part of what helped the movement organize, be heard and become legit, is the web and all it has to offer. Now, the freedom of the web – which we all take for granted – is at great risk because we are about to lose net neutrality.
If you don’t know what that is, the one and only Stephen Colbert explains it besthere, and it’s followed by an interview with the Columbia Law School Professor who coined the term. In short: The court of appeals just ruled in favor of Verizon (and a few other major corporations) – and not in favor of the entire population of the planet – regarding net neutrality. Net neutrality means that all Internet traffic should generally be treated equally and that the Internet providers (Verizon, Time Warner, et. al.) cannot decide which websites will be streamed faster or slower, and which will not be streamed at all. Without net neutrality, the Internet providers could technically change it into a place where only big corporations can get their content to us.
The fact that a few corporations are trying to gain control of the Internet and are succeeding would seem to be a reason for all of us to protest in the streets to clearly show the government that we demand that the Internet stays free. But the media doesn’t seem to be stressing how dangerous this is, so most people have missed it.
Why is this so scary? We found a good summary here, but this is how we see it.
Without the random and free nature of the Internet, we would stand to lose the following:
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed a website like Amazon to redefine the way we all shop (and sell) and lowered our overall costs by hundreds of percent.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed Netflix to redefine the way we watch movies and TV.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed websites like AirbnbUber andLyft to create a new shared economy which forced industries like hotels and taxis into a competition that improved the service and price for everyone.
* The freedom of the Internet is what allowed grassroots groups to organize and redefine our politics. From Occupy Wall Street to the Tea Party (through pot legalizers) — thanks to the web, politicians are forced to listen to their constituents and are discovering that a huge percentage of the population, many times, has different opinions than what the mainstream is expressing.
* And we haven’t even gotten to Facebook, Twitter, etc. The freedom of the Internet has changed everything in our lives – from commerce to the nature of our communities.
Net neutrality affects all of us, in everything we do in the digital age.
The underlying question is who owns the Internet. Is it the cable companies or the citizens of the world? Is the Internet a commodity that whomever owns it controls it – or is the Internet a utility – like gas, electricity or water, to which everyone has the same right to be connected, regardless of income?
Being indie filmmakers, we know all too well how much we need the Internet to stay free. The Internet helped bring an audience to watch our previous documentaryYiddish Theater: A Love Story in the theaters for over four months and is now enabling it to be sold on Amazon on a daily basis. How can we hope to achieve the same with our new documentary if we need to pay to even have an online presence?
After the court ruled that the Internet belongs to the cable companies, it will be up to the FCC to decide the fate of the freedom of the net – they need to change the law to reinforce net neutrality. From the few voices that were heard from in Washington after the court decision, it is obviously not a priority for most politicians.
So it is up to us, the people, to make sure they know this is a priority. Please call your representatives and let them know you want net neutrality defended by law. Or sign an online petition (there are a few circling around on Facebook).
We must use the freedom we still have of the web to do everything we can to keep it.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sneak peek screening of our film at Bill Maher's house as part of a special event organized by CCPR.

The story of the sneak peek screening of our film at Bill Maher's house as part of a special event organized by CCPR in the Hollywood Journal:

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Open source art: Letting go of your ego

Our Latest article in the Hollywood Journal:

Open source art: Letting go of your ego

Open source art: Letting go of your ego

by Dan Katzir and Ravit Markus

Last week we saw one of the greatest art exhibits we have ever seen in our lives: Urs Fischer – YES, 2013. We don’t make it to downtown L.A. as often as we would like to and rarely go to the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA. We actually stumbled into this exhibition by mistake without knowing anything about the artist or what we would see.
What makes this exhibit utterly breathtaking is that it is comprised of thousands of clay sculptures of almost everything that makes our world – from religious icons to pop culture icons, monsters, ghosts, animals, cars, old and new relics, immature and mature work, funny and serious work, playful and sad work – everything is there. We have never seen an exhibit with so much in it.
We were wondering how one man could create so much art even in an entire lifetime. How one man could speak in so many voices, have so many different styles – it was as if every style in the universe was present there but in a unique version of that style, not a mere copy work.
Then we read that the artist who created this work was Urs Fischer and that he actually brought in 1,500 volunteers to create this exhibit with him over one weekend.
All ages were there, young and old, dozens of kids. Most were not professional sculptors.
The artist gave them tons of clay and let their imagination run and regardless if some of the work was brilliant – and some was just okay – together it became a powerful and deeply moving statement.
What this exhibition shows is what we are experiencing all around us – the power of open source and the power of community in achieving greatness.
Open source has redefined our world. From open sourcing our collective experiences in social websites like Facebook, through collective sharing of our knowledge on Wikipedia, to collective sharing of criticism in websites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Epinions, etc.
Yet in art? Art is usually the place where an individual expresses his/her unique voice. All arts have a lot to do with a person trying to quiet his/her soul – and part of that journey is motivated by very strong egos.
But open source is the opposite. It is letting go of one’s ego.
Some of the myths of the 20th century were about individuals with a unique voice and how they changed our world. It might be the basis of the myths in all history.
Maybe the story of the 21st century isn’t about individuals, but instead about teamwork that will lead to groundbreaking changes.