Tuesday, February 27, 2007


Michael Fox, the harsh critique of the SF Weekly gave us an amazing review in the San Diego Jewish journal.
As Borat would say : WOWA WEEWA.
Michael Fox is an uncompromising film critic, so getting such warm words from him, blew my mind.

Thank you Michael Fox for the amazing review. I am deeply touched.

Here's the actual review:


"WHAT'S MOST STRIKING ABOUT "YIDDISH THEATER: A Love Story," Dan Katzir's valuable documentary about a crucial week in the life of the last Yiddish stage company in New York, is its refusal to wallow in bathos.
Although Katzir is potentially recording the end of an era, one that some viewers will be amazed to learn was still extant when the film was shot in December 2000, he eschews a funereal tone in favor of a briskness that frequently tilts toward irreverence, but not disrespect. In a sense, Katzir's spirited aproach is th perfect match for octogenarian actress Zypora Spaisman and her cohorts, for it aptly mirrors their unwavering drive to live, to create and to share with an audience.

"Yiddish Theater: A Love Story" screens Sunday Feb 11 at the AMC La Jolla in the San Digo Jewish Film Festival. Katzir, a garrulous young Israeli who lives in Los Angeles is slated to be on hand for the screening.
As the film opens, the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater, the last survivor of the dozens such enterprises that prospered in New York City before World War II, is performing Peretz Hirshbein's 1916 shtetl romance "Green Fields" to sparse adiences. Spaisman and producer David Romeo are determined to boost the house and keep the play running, but the odds are mighty long. For one thing, the troupe is performing at a venue on the Lower East Side. Once upon a time this was the hub of immigrant Jewish life, of course, but it's a major shlep from the Upper West Side and the other neighborhoods where Manhattan's Jews now reside.
From a braoder cultural perspective, it's the frenetic holiday season, and the "Green Fields" is fighting for a sliver of attention amid the crunch. The film shows the ubiquitous Christmas trees and lights, hinting at the David and Goliath battle that Folksbiene is fighting against the dominant culture. This isn't Katzir's most convincing ploy, however, for Manhattan is the last place where you can depict a Jewish Entity- albeit a Yiddish troupe- as a minority venture. Katzi uses the Hanukkah menorrah, and the metaphor of the dwindling oil that miraculously lasted eight days, to count down the days and gently build the tension as the endearing Romeo pursues last minute investors in order to extend the "Green Fields" run.
Meanwhile, the filmmaker taks us into Spaisman's daily life and shows us what the theater means to her. It represents the overriding majority of her professional career, for one thing.
Equally important, it's a concrete bridge to her roots in the Old Country and a defiant homage to her 150 family members who perished in the Holocaust.
But even more than that, the Folksbiene is what gives shape to the widowed Spaisman's hours and meaning to her days. So the documentary, by staying focused on teh personalities in the present, is a vital portrait of Jewish lives rather than an elegy for an abstract concept like the demise of Yiddish Theater. To be sure, the Yiddish songs that Katzir sprinkles on the soundtrack are the essence of melancholia. But if the idefatigable Spaisman and her fellow actors express a little frustration and a lot of disappointment, they give no voice to self pity.
One suspects that that was part of the attraction for Katzir, who narrates the film and can be heard asking questions of camera. He's typically brusque and unsetimental Israeli, which doesn't mean that he is without empathy but simply that he's more attunded to the future than the past. He mght not be the obvious candidate to make a make a documentary called: " Yiddish Theater: A Love Story", but he proves to be the right one. "

Michael Fox, Page 48, San Diego Jewish Journal, February 2007, Shevat/Adar 5767

An email I just got from a Montreal friend:

Hi Dan, The Israeli House in Atlanta screened your movie in a big
synagogue to an Israeli audience, and I gave a presentation. Many
people showed up (more than were expected, so they added more chairs).
They people were very exited. They laughed in several scenes (specially
in the kitchen with your grandmother), some of them cried in others.
They asked questions and of course they asked if you and Iris are
together. When I told them that you were separated they asked your
email to give it to their daughters. Anyway they were very impressed
from your movie and your character.

It's so fun to know my film is still touching audiences.


Yesterday Ravit and I went to another wonderful screening at the Pacific Jewish Film Festival in Orange County.

One of the fun things was to discover that an image of our film went into the center of their banner. It was heart warming indeed.

The screening was well attended, and well received. It was the last day of the festival. Only problem was it was OSCAR night, so we had to rush back to L.A. to all the OSCAR parties, and couldn't stay and meet all our new friends in the OC.


Time's flying by, and I nearly forgot to mention the fun we had at the San Diego Jewish Film Festivals. One of the largest and oldest Jewish Film Festivals.
The film was so well attended they showed it on two screens at once.
Unbelievable time, meeting so many new additional friends as well as reconnecting to old ones.

This is one of the festivals I truly feel at home in. I've been there with all my films.

Much love to everyone in SF.



Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Another mentioning of the Aqaba Film School, and your humble director in the Forward newspaper:

A little history:
Back in the day, the Forward, the old NY based daily newspaper had more readers than the NY TIMES. Today it's another story. They ran an article about the film school in Jordan in Jan 2007. They interviewed me. Now it's online. Thanks to the web, news articles have a longer shelf life than ever before.

Directors Without Borders
Caroline Lagnado | Fri. Jan 19, 2007

Jordan’s King Abdullah II recently announced that his country will partner with the University of Southern California’s School of Cinema-Television to create a new film school. The Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts will be aimed specifically toward youth of Middle Eastern background and based in the city of Aqaba — significant for its proximity to the various nations the school wishes to serve, including Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The graduate school, which will offer a three-year Master of Fine Arts degree, will start construction on its state-of-the-art facilities this year and will begin admitting students in 2008. The campus will feature digital screening rooms, animation labs and sound stages with green-screen and motion-capture abilities, in addition to digital and print library resources.

The institute’s courses will be taught in English, in an attempt to bridge cultural differences between the various Arab speakers and Israeli students while allowing English-speaking specialists to come and teach. The king conferred on the project with director Steven Spielberg, who, in a statement, hailed “the importance and significance of such a venture for the people and the future of the region.”

Inviting Israeli students to attend the school has sparked some heated debate, particularly among Arab bloggers, who are skeptical about the institute’s chances for success. Its supporters include prominent Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir, who participated in the school’s inaugural ceremony in New York, alongside Samer Mouasher, commissioner of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan. The school’s mission is close to Katzir’s heart: His 1994 hit “Out for Love… Be Back Shortly” dealt with the Jordanian-Israeli peace accords.

According to Katzir, the long hours and hard work required to serve on one another’s student film crews will help unify the students as they navigate through potential ideological differences. “Once you bond with your peers, it’s very hard to make a movie against them,” he said in an interview with the Forward. “Basically you’re creating something positive together; you’re creating life.”

Katzir also spoke glowingly of the Jordanian king, calling him “a visionary” for being able to see the need for such an institution in the Middle East. The filmmaker feels that the school will have the ability to cross cultural boundaries, since “film affects our hearts rather than our brains.”

Caroline Lagnado is a writer in New York.
Fri. Jan 19, 2007

Friday, February 09, 2007


Santa Barbara Film Festival 2007.

Wow. What a roller Coaster ride. Santa Barbara Film Festival, with endless guests including Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Al Gore, and so many others. It was a wild roller coaster ride, that was so much fun. So many new friends. Filmmakers like Richard Kraft and Justin Lieberman as well as new local friends who've attended the festival.

I had an amazing time. We were very popular, and got an additional screening of the film thanks to the amazing audience turnout.
We had three screenings:

Lot's of parties that were done in the grandest of manners.

One of the sad things, is that I met a fine person, who didn't want me to identify her name, or use her image. She's a very smart and charismatic woman who wears many hats.
Basically she's an artist working full time in many other professions.
I feel she's a wasted story teller.

Hopefully, one day after she retires, she'll have time to focus on telling her amazing stories. Who knows, maybe one day she'll allow me to make one of her stories into a film. I don't know what impressed me more. Her stories, or the way she told them. There was an innocence about about her story telling, people in L.A. lack. This closet storyteller has lived in the world and seen some of the pain in it. Yet, she has an ability to bring a lot of compassion to her stories. A trait usually is missing from the way people tell stories back in Lala land.
Leaving L.A. always puts new perspective on L.A. and the people there.
There's something very edgy in L.A. and the people in it.But in that edge, there's also something missing. Guess there's something in living in a town of storytellers like LA, that slowly takes the heart out of the people living here. Why ? I don't know.
So refreshing meeting new people, who don't talk like Angelenos.

If I ever make a film about a little town cheerleading team- it will hopefully be with this new collaborator.
Hopefully she'll allow me to also use her name and post her image online.

Mystery writerlady told me she has many more stories, that are even more unique.
I hope we'll have an artistic collaboration. She's very creative.

Why is such an original writer not focusing on her own story and letting it gather dust in the depth of her soul? I don't know. I guess cause a lot of people don't realize how precious their stories and life experience really are.

So many parties. so many new people. Santa Barbara's festival, I predict will become one of the major film events in the U.S. in the very near future.

Much love from Santa Barbara,


Life of a gypsy continues.
The film is travelling and so am I. Every week in a new city. Prior to my film there was an amazing dinner at the home of one of the donors of the festival at his home. Somehow it turned out to be a Q&A between me and the donors of the festival. It was a lot of fun. My dad called in the middle. He had just landed in L.A. to make a story short the owner of the beautiful home knew my dad from the time they were both students...several decades ago... Making me realize once again what a Small world it is.

Natalie Gardner, my assistant director who relocated to Tucson saw the finished film for the first time. She really liked it. She worked with us a lot. It's funny how people react differently when a film is finished. It just looks so different watching it with a crowd of people laughing and crying in the theater.

A few memories from the journey:
Before the festival events the head of the festival took me to the cowboy studio where many of the cowboy films were shot.

A pity cowboy films have disappeared. I loved cowboy films. I also once talked about it on TV in San Francisco:

Here's the YouTube link to my thoughts about cowboys and Hollywood:

Howdy Tucson...


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