Monday, April 10, 2006

An actress friend of mine, who recently saw my new film, currently titled : Yiddish theater- A love story, was so moved, she decided to write a paper on it for one of her college classes.
She just got 100 on that paper, and was so happy, and let me know about it, as well as send me the paper.

It's a cool paper, so I decided to add it to my blog. It's always moving when a young artist see's a film about an older artist and is moved to the point of having to comment on it.
I did it with my film, about one of the last divas of Yiddish theater.
Einav responded to the film, by adding her comments.

So here it is.

Yiddish Theater, A Love Story

by Einav Markel

In this paper I will tell the story of two Israeli film makers, Dan Katzir and Ravit Marcus and their journey of a small inspiring documentary shot in New York. For any film maker, trying to get their film out there, it is a very difficult process. For foreign film makers it’s even harder.
But to take on themselves a challenge like this one, it will be an uneasy task and one they may not succeed in doing.

The film “Yiddish Theater, A Love Story”, is about the Yiddish theater, of course. It takes us through the journey of Zypora. Zypora is in her eighties and is a Yiddish theater star. From the moment she arrived in the states, knowing only Yiddish, she has joined the Jews of New York in the lower east side and the theater. As it is well known, the Yiddish theater in New York was very successful at the time, bringing people from all over the land. Zypora is one of the people who kept the Yiddish theater alive for 40 years. This movie takes us to the lives of Zypora and other Yiddish theater actors and producers as they are holding on to a thread, trying to keep the theater alive. It’s a story about the human spirit, about persistence, determination and perseverance.

How do you keep a theater alive when most of it’s audience has died. It is hard enough to manage holding a theater alive in English, but in a dead language, it’s practically impossible. With that knowledge, Zypora and her fellow actors and friends, try to convince who ever they can, to donate or invest money in the theater so they can move to a better location, a location that might produce an audience despite the foreign old language.

Dan has interviews with the cast and the investors, everyone trying as best as they can to stay hopeful, but it’s not looking good. From the interviews with Zypora and the way she is questioned, we get to know her and learn from her. This is a woman that might be banging her head against the wall, but she knows how to fight for what she believes in. We hear her wisdom and the passion she has for life and, by god, it’s inspiring. David, one of the young producers is doing all he can, and we get the feeling that it’s just for her. Slowly even his hope starts to diminish but he keeps a smile on. David walks in to any office he can think about and the camera follows, but everywhere, the answer is no.

When I watched the film I thought to my self, what would I have said if I was approached by them (and had money to spare), and my conclusion, sadly, was “no”. In business you invest where there is a possibility of a return and hopefully also a profit, and as much as I admired their ambition and life, I had to be truthful with the chances of success, or lack of. But it touches you no matter what, because you can relate to her, to them. You imagine what it would feel like if one day a long time from now, the only thing you love and know how to do, your source of money, will no longer be needed. If you are an artist, you always know or hope that at least your legacy will stay long after you are gone. Here, some one took their whole life away, everything they are and who they were, will be gone for ever.

The question I asked myself was: would a film about the Yiddish theater, the theater I wouldn’t have invested in, would have a chance succeeding as a film.

As we follow these incredible people through out the film and see them start to accept defeat, we reach a point where it’s obvious that their dream will be long gone. We also have to say goodbye to Zypora who finally gave up, and like her audience, past on, leaving us with her wisdom and the love for life, “keep fighting as long as you can”. Apparently her fighting helped because in the end of the film, the group receives a generous contribution from the city of New York which will help them continue in the quest of spreading the joy of Yiddish, at least for awhile.

I decided that I shouldn’t look at this film as merely a film about Yiddish. It is much deeper then that. This is a film about love.
I want to help my friends and show this film to the world, but even if I know the true nature of the film, how do we sell a movie about Yiddish to the world.

I asked my friends a few questions: How they came about this story that has nothing to do with their life, how do they intend to promote it, where they would like it to go, etc. I intend to try and answer those questions in this paper and maybe we will find some hope ourselves.

Dan came about this story when he met Zypora on the subway in New York. He recognized what an amazing woman she is and followed her wish, to record the fight for the Yiddish theater. Dan wasn’t thinking of how he will edit, how it will

look or what the production values are, he just went with the story, recording the struggle.

Dan has done a number of documentaries in his life. His films have gained international release and appreciation, winning numerous awards. When asked, Dan replied that he follows films as “Water Marks”, “Shanghai Ghetto”, and “The Comedians”, and he feels that they resemble his film, showing the fighting for something you believe in. Dan (director) and Ravit (producer) both have been working on this film for sometime and in their words “we haven’t gone this far and spent so much energy to just give up”.

Ravit came in to this project much later than Dan. She has seen his work and was happy to be working with him on this film when he realized he needed a producer. The two of them hope to get limited release: New York, Los Angeles and Miami at least. Ravit says that having these limited, yet difficult goals, is the way to go. So far they have had a screening in USC and then, through some friends, they have had a private screening, trying to show the film to influential parties and hopefully get some investors interested. Dan and Ravit have a very optimistic look, not unlike Zypora. They are trying to publicize this film through word-to-mouth and hope that they will get enough support and money to get a good PR person so that this work will see as much audience and appreciation as it should. Apperantly one of the ways to go are free screening, but even I, Jewish and all, would not have gone to a screening of a film about Yiddish, free or not.

If it’s that hard to sell then how will they?
In the case of investors showing interest but wanting things changed, Ravit says, they will make the changes. They will sacrifice some of what they shot so the film will be out there, to inspire other people, like I was inspired myself.
You always say in your lecturers, how the documentaries we see have had changes or some things have been staged all for the purpose of the film - “sometimes you have to lie to tell the truth”. Well, they did not lie in this film, they didn’t have to. But sometimes to sell a film, people ask you to.

The Yiddish theater, surprisingly, is coming back, surfacing slowly amongst young people. Who knows, maybe this film will come to be a hit. And maybe this film will help the Yiddish theater. Maybe if this film will get the distribution it should, people will see a dying, interesting, filled with history language, and they won’t want to let it disappear anymore.

I have always stayed away from documentary. For me, as an actress, it seemed like something very boring and educational. In my mind, I don’t watch films to see the truth, there are news programs for that. I watch movies to escape to a different world.
Then I started studying in LACC, and in order to move farther into film making, some people in charge decided that we have to learn Documentary. Well, I’m still learning to like this subject, but the more I see, the more I realize the possibilities.

I still think Documentary is educational, I just think that in this day and age, when we have the means to know what’s going on around the world, the internet being able to crawl into endless lives and stories, we are still, and even more then ever, locked in our own little bubble.
This is, indeed, the time for documentary film and with that knowledge, I believe my friend’s film will get to be shown and touch a lot more people like me.

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