Monday, September 25, 2006

The King and I...

Last week I was a part of history.
The king of Jordan, and the dean of USC signed an agreement to create a film institute modeled after USC in Akabah.
It will aim at developing the film industry of Jordan and the entire region.
Hopefully in the future the various cultures will be able to learn about one another through cinema.

Here's two websites about it.
One the official press release.
One a blog by those who are skeptic about the success of this venture.

Amidst the militant anti Israeli speeches of the president of Iran and the angry reply speach of the president of the US at the UN and additional pro and anti speeches about Israel, the King of Jordan's actions were extremely brave.
Like his father, he is a smart, charismatic and visionary king that is not afraid to take risks for the benefit of his people and the region in it's entirety.
The Kings words and actions were not only a call to develop art in his kingdom, but also a call for dialogue between nations through culture.

Additional links:

Here is the blog that was skeptical of the event and the dialogue between nations:

The full articles.
First Mental Mayhem:

Jordan's promising Institute of Cinematic Arts generates online controversy

Thanks to the blogosphere, I've found out about an amazing cinematic project that will be established in Jordan. It is the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) based in Jordan's Red Sea resort town of Aqaba. I first heard about this great project on Laith's blog and it really made my day knowing that such a highly needed institute would be established in Jordan. Kudos to all those behind it.

However, the announcement of this project is already creating controversy in the blogosphere. The reason stems from a statement by veteran filmmaker Stephen Spielberg, who will be involved in the project:

When His Majesty the King approached me on the subject of a Jordan-based, world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel, I immediately saw the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and the future of the region. I knew as a trustee of USC and a member of the school's Board of Councilors that the university had the exact expertise he needed for this incredible initiative.
Source: [University of Southern California]

Some were not happy about having Israelis involved in the project. One anonymous commentator on Ameen’s blog said:

I read what blogger Laith Majali posted about the film school and it said the school is also open to Israelis. Imagine, sitting next you will be an Israeli who is an IDF reservists and who may have killed or maimed an Arab few kilometers away from the film school. And then we in Jordan will help him make films about evil and terrorist Arabs. This is like Israeli film schools admitting skinheads and neo-nazis. Will we go along with anything if the price is right?

Another commentator on Laith's blog said:

"... world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel" The New Middle East? You can count me out.

Another commentator on Laith's blog going by the name of Shlomo said:

Thank you. I can't [wait] to learn filmmaking in Jordan to make films about terrorist Arabs.

Regardless of the controversy, I see this project as the materialization of the dreams of so many aspiring Jordanian and Arab movie makers. I am excited.

Posted by Natasha at 10:00 AM in Jordan, my nation


Jordan Signs Cinema Pact With USC

Monarch agrees to create Middle East institute in Aqaba, where qualified candidates can learn about film technique and other cultures.

King Abdullah II of Jordan today presided over a ceremony in New York City marking the creation of the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts (RSICA) in Jordan’s Red Sea resort town of Aqaba.

The institute is a joint effort of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. The institute will enroll men and women from the Middle East region in a specialized learning environment dedicated to teaching all disciplines of the cinematic arts.

The official ceremony took place at the Jumeirah Essex House in New York City. Participants in the event included Elizabeth M. Daley, dean of the USC School of Cinematic Arts; Frank Price, chair of the school’s Board of Councilors and USC trustee; Samer Mouasher, commissioner of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan; filmmaker Dan Katzir; and producer Malek Akkad.

The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts is in line with Abdullah’s efforts to harness the skills of Jordanian youth by exposing them to the latest technologies in filmmaking and production. The institute also would contribute to the monarch’s vision of establishing a hub for intellectual and creative capital in Jordan, where youth in the region can be equipped with the necessary tools for success.

Abdullah drew on the expertise of filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who recommended the partnership with USC, to make this project a reality.

“When His Majesty approached me on the subject of a Jordan-based, world-class film school serving every country in the Middle East, including Israel, I immediately saw the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and the future of the region. I knew as a trustee of USC and a member of the school’s Board of Councilors that the university had the exact expertise he needed for this incredible initiative,” Spielberg said.

Said Mouasher, “The Middle East is a melting pot of cultural richness and diversity with storytelling traditions as old as time, yet contemporary cinematic stories from the region are in short supply. In establishing this institute, we will draw from a diverse and vast pool of cultures and experiences to offer a more complete idea and multifaceted perspective to the viewer and the world audience.”

USC faculty and staff teams traveled to Jordan to conduct pilot programs in 2005 and 2006. Those experiences now will be formally expanded into the RSICA, a fully accredited and free-standing graduate school that will offer a three-year Master’s of Fine Arts degree through advanced education in cinema, television and a wide range of screen-based media.

Construction of the RSICA campus is set to begin in early 2007 in Aqaba, a special economic zone in Jordan on the Red Sea bordering Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel. Its facilities will include digital screening rooms, postproduction, animation and interactive media laboratories; sound stages with green-screen and motion-capture capacities; high-end professional video production packages and an extensive digital and print library.

Faculty will be drawn from industry, arts and academic institutions around the world. Students will be admitted from Jordan and the entire region, with first admissions in September 2008, and the first graduating class in June 2011.

Admission will be based on a competitive portfolio, clear evidence of talent and outstanding personal expression as well as strong potential for creative collaboration.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In the pictures :
Rabbi Wolpe interviews me after the screening of my film at Sinai Temple. Los Angeles, Tu Baav.

Life in the age of connectivity.
Someone asked me if I have a picture of myself, and if I could email it to them. I told them there are quite a few out there on the web.
But then I realized that indeed there are two problems.
1. There's another Dan Katzir, also living in LA, but with a different fate than mine. So I might be confused with him, once again.

2. Some of the newspapers that once printed pictures of me, eventually move them to the archive files, and the text is still online, but not the picture.

So I realized it's important to somehow find a way to keep alive those pictures I liked that have been living on the web for some time, so that I can enjoy the memories behind them also in the future.
I had been in many events over the course of the alst few years and yet sometimes, you need to see an image of a certain event to remember how much fun it really was.
One of those ultra cool events which is very memorable to me is the event at Sinai Temple, one of the biggest, dare I say THE biggest temple in LA.
Hundreds of young people showed up to see my film there, and afterwards I had a talk on stage with Rabbi Wolpe - one of the most influential Rabbi's in LA.

It was on Tu Baav- kind of like the Jewish Valentines day. After that event for weeks, I met young people who told me they had found love and/or their boyfriend/girlfriend in my event.

Back in the day, on Tu Baav, girls would wear white and go dance in the fields. The boys would see them and choose their wives.
I wonder if anyone got married thanks to that event?
Hopefully one day someone will tell me I was a little help in their quest for love.
Back in the day, I remember seing a few pictures of that event online.
Today there's only one left.
There used to be more mentions of that event online.
Memory is still a problem today, so some of the typed memories have been washed away deleted into oblivion.
Luckily there still lives online some thoughts about this event.
I chose two. One by a blogger who had a funny point of view on that event. The other by the official Jewish organization in the city.
Here's the first metioning of that event on the web.

It's by someone named Luke Ford who wrote about it in his blog :

Out For Love...Be Back Shortly

Wednesday night marked the festival of love in the Jewish calendar - TuB'Av. Being a pious Jew, I showered, put on some nice dacks and made my way to Temple Sinai in Westwood.

A large crowd was already gathered at 7PM as I lined up to buy my ticket. The staff were running out single dollar bills. The attractive lady taking my money was someone I've dated in the past year and could date again one day.

I find ten singles in my wallet and I keep digging. Finally, 13 singles and a $5 bill. I push the money towards her. I'm closing my wallet when a Trojan condom falls out on the table.

Lady: "Oh my. Well, I'm afraid we can't take that."

Blushing, I grab my rubber and stick it in my pocket, seeking a rationale for what just happened. It is the festival of love, after all, and one should be prepared. Stranger things have happened after Rabbi Wolpe has given one of his eloquent sermons about expressing ourselves Jewishly.

Perhaps I'll start a cultural trend. Soon men will indicate their interest in a woman by discretely dropping an extra-large ribbed condom in front of her.

My older Israeli friend Eitan grabs me and pats my stomach. "You're getting fat," he says. "Soon you'll look like the rest of us."

I find a seat far from the rest of the crowd (which will grow to 300) and read my book on literary feuds.

Restless after a few minutes, I have to walk out past the new assistant rabbi.

Luke: "Are we allowed out? Wait, you're a Conservative rabbi. You believe in the spirit of the law vs the letter of the law. If you were Orthodox, no way out.

"I've got to do a mitzvah, rabbi."

He lets me out.

I return five minutes later.

Luke: "I just had a drink of water."

Rabbi: "Did you say a blessing?"

He starts me with the Hebrew phrase and I finish it.

Rabbi Wolpe introduces Dan Katzir's film - Out For Love...Be Back Shortly, which garners this deserved review on

Dan Katzir has produced a wonderful film that takes us on a roller-coaster ride through a real romance set in the troubles surrounding modern Israel. For anyone who's ever been in love, the film brings back the uncertainties, the insecurities and heartache that make love so bitter-sweet.

The atmosphere of fear and isolation that came with the difficult times in Israel at that time just serve to intensify the feeling. Instantly, you are drawn in to Dan's plight, and you can't fail to be deeply moved.

You can't write drama and passion like this - the contrast between the realities of Dan's desperate, snatched relationship with Iris, and the realities of a state in turmoil make this eminently watchable. If you have an ounce of passion, and have ever been in love, see this film.

During question time, we find out that publicity over the film drove the couple starring in it apart. Iris appears a lovely sweet feminine beautiful girl who becomes an officer in the Israeli army. She has since married and divorced. Dan has yet to marry.

The cell phone of the woman next to me goes off during the discussion. To my horror, she answers it and starts talking. I shoot her a homicidal glance along with a dozen other people.

"Turn it off," I hiss. I find this appalling manners, and I have very few of those.

She hangs up on her call and turns off her phone. On Friday night in shul, she started taking notes on the rabbi's sermon. I wanted to grab her pen and stab her with it.

"You can't write on Shabbos," I hissed.

Woman: "But otherwise I'll forget what he's saying."

She keeps writing.

It is against Jewish Law to write on the Sabbath. This does not bother me so much in the abstract when Jews do it. It freaks me out when it happens in a traditional synagogue on the Sabbath right next to me. There's a big difference in Judaism between sinning privately and sinning publicly. When you sin publicly, you challenge the moral foundations of the community and drive out the divine presence.

To comfort myself from all this wickedness Wednesday night, I make for the desert table and scarf down several pastries and pieces of fruit. I grab a napkin and wipe my hands and face.

Two girls next to me: "We're going to have to start charging you for those."

Women, they're always taunting and teasing me. Won't they learn to respect the man, even when I drop my rubbers in front of them?

Why Are There Fewer Marriages?

Here's what the official Jewish websites in LA Wrote :

Tu B'Av, Out for Love…Be Back Shortly

Sinai Temple's ATID young adults group and The Jewish Federation's Young Leadership Division recently added a new twist to Tu B'Av, the Jewish Festival of Love.

Young professionals took a break from their busy lives to attend a screening of the award-winning film, "Out for Love…Be Back Shortly." In addition, they had the opportunity to meet the man behind the movie, Dan Katzir, and participate in an open dialogue with him and Rabbi David Wolpe.

Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir's docudrama, "Out for Love…Be Back Shortly," about an ordinary young couple's quest for love in extraordinary times and set against the time of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin's assassination, has won 13 International Awards. Rabbi David Wolpe, senior rabbi at Sinai Temple, author and renowned contributor to numerous major publications, is one religious leader who can always be counted on to offer valuable insights into Judaism that seem to resonate with today's young Jewish professionals.

ATID, which means "future" in Hebrew, is a new program of Sinai Temple that seeks to connect young Los Angeles Jews and provide social opportunities, while fostering a deeper engagement with their Judaism through a variety of innovative and exciting programs and events. For more information, call (310) 481-3244

The Jewish Federation's Young Leadership Division is a dynamic group of people – ages 20's to mid 40's – who are committed to building a stronger Jewish community through community involvement, education and fund raising. For more information, call 323-761-8248 or visit the Young Leadership Division´s web page at

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

SEPT 12 2006
Five years and one day to the events of Sept 11.
Five years and one day to the beginning of WWIII.
It's different this time, as it's a war not against a well defined army.Not a war between nations. It's a war against terror.
I know a little about terror. Terrorism killed my grandfather and dealt my family a very painful blow.
Very scary.
Five years from the time, we had seen the unimaginable. Two of the largest buildings in the world collapse infront of our eyes live on TV.
Brings me back to memories from my country.
When prime minister Itzchak Rabin and King Hussein of Jordan started the peace proccess they both talked about the WAR FOR PEACE.
I didn't understand what they were talking about. Why does peace need a war?
After the events of the last decade I have fully understood. Indeed it's a war to make peace.
What makes it harder is that many in the world are afraid to admit there's a real war going on at all.
Like my favorite singer Leonard Cohen sings:
There is a war between the ones who say there is a war and the ones who say there isn't.

Seems like the world is deteriorating into two camps. Not based on religion or culture but based on political beliefs. There are those nations who believe in peace co existence and tolerance and those who don't believe in it.
Seems like the latest events have even woken voices in the Arab world who tended to be quiet and not express their concerns. Perhaps there is hope. Perhaps all this unrest was powerful enough to wake up people across this planet to the dangers surrounding us.

What's going to happen by September 11 2011 ? Where will the world be in the 10 year anniversary?
Will the forces of peace win, or will the forces that benefit from war, death and destruction succeed in their master plot to make the world an uglier place?

I continue volunteering in those organizations that support my beliefs, that we should try to mak the world a nicer and more decent place to live in.
If every person volunteers a little bit. Just a tiny bit. Perhaps the world could be a more decent place by 2011.

Of to another subject.
Jewish history in the US.
Today I got an email from One of the largest and most influential Jewish Film Festival in the US in the East Coast.
They aren't interested in showing my film about the battle to keep Yiddish Theater alve in the US.
I guess making a statement that Yiddish theater is important , is not something the heads of that festival want to endorse. A pity.

A very old wise man told me you have some chances at changing your future, but you can't escape the past.

I made the journey to accept the culture of my past.
Hopefully other young people will be allowed to also see it.

At least in we've passed the 1500.
Seems like younger people are discovering the film and loving it.
Hopefully now their parents will also allow them to see it.

Sad that the first two episodes of my video diary were shown in that Jewish Film Festival with great success.
Both the first episode, Out for love, about the peace proccess between Jordan and Israel, and the second episode, Shivah, about the death of the first generation of Israeli's had filled the theater there.
What a pity that the third episode of my life work will not be seen there now.
Sad and ironic that the episode about American Jews is receiving the least amount of acceptance by... American Jews.
I guess like Groucho Marx, there are those who will never join the club that accepts them.

My film opens with Gov. Pataki at an event shortly after Sept. 11 saying :
Hitler tried to kill a people and their culture. He failed at both.
Did he not kill the culture?
And how ironic how all these things tie together, including being rejected in the east coast on such a day.
Life is sometimes greater than fiction.

Sept 12, 5 years later.
A sad day in general.
Seems like fear continues to control people both in the Jewish world and outside it.
Fear of not belonging.
Fear of not being accepted by the outsiders.
Fear of fear itself.
What can I say.
What the world really needs is more love.



Friday, September 08, 2006

Today we had Another great screening in the bible belt. Rome Georgia.Thanks to all the good people in Rome who selected our film. I'm so excited when my films play in places I fear I'll never have the oppurtunity to travel to.
Even if my body can't travel there, at least a piece of my soul can travel to. Even if I won't get to meet the wonderful people of Rome, I hope they will like the piece of me that I've sent. A piece of my heart, about the passion to live of a 90 year old woman, who's not willing to give up. A 90 year old woman who finds a reason to get up every morning and go to work as an actress.
It's my love story to people who want to live and have meaning to their lives until the day they die.

Here's the link to the Festival's screening :

For all those who don't know that much about Rome, here's some info :

Rome, Georgia :

Located as a center point between three metropolitan southern cities, Atlanta, Chattanooga, and Birmingham, Rome is rated among the best places to live, work, and do business in America.
Floyd County was established in 1832 and named in honor of John Floyd, military officer and member of the state and U.S. House of Representatives.

In 1834, two weary travelers stopped to rest beside a spring near the junction where the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers form the Coosa River. They and a third wayfarer decided the area was ideal for a town. Its abundance of water, heavy growth of timber, and its obviously fertile soil favorably impressed all three men.

Following a night of southern hospitality at the home of Major Phillip Hemphill, the three men enlisted the aid of two others in developing plans for the new community. Ferry rights were obtained, land lots and street plans drawn, and provisions were made for public buildings. Legislative and legal actions designated the site as the seat of Floyd County and a city was born. All that seemed lacking was a name.

Each of the five men wrote a suggested name on a slip of paper and deposited it in a hat. Drawn was Daniel Mitchell's proposal, "Rome." Rome's topography reminded Mitchell of the seven hills of ancient Rome in Italy. In 1929, Benito Mussolini traveled to Rome and presented the City of Rome with a sculpture of the Capitoline Wolf and her adopted babies – Romulus and Remus.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Hello Canada.
Our first screening in Canada, hosted with the support of the prestigous Toronto Jewish Film Festival. One of the Best Jewish Film Festivals in the world.

Here's the link to the screening:

The film is starting to Travel. Hopefully, after the Northern Neighbour, we'll start touring the world.

Still no one in NYC wants to see the film about saving a culture in NYC.

Will this film travel the entire world, before finding a space in NYC ?

As Gov. Pataki opened the movie by saying : " Hitler tried to destroy a people and their culture" he failed at both.

Hitler failed at killing the people, but he did succeed in killing a culture. At least the Yiddish culture and Yiddish theater in particular.

As we're starting to travel the world- I'm starting to regain my confidence, which I lost a little bit as I was finishing the film.
I'm remembering why I made this film.

Perhaps it's not the most commercial project. But it's a very important project, which I'm very happy I did.
It's one of those small, labor of love projects, which remind you that there's stuff worth fighting for.

Onward with the battle to make the world a better place.



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