Sunday, April 29, 2007

Detroit Jewish Film Festival April 2007

Back from Detroit Jewish Film Festival.

Here's what they wrote about us in their catalogue. It was a very interesting journey.
I also toured Birmingham MI later, and saw a small town covered with Tigers.

A Special Director’s Selection

2006, 90 minutes, English and some Yiddish with English subtitles, Color, USA.

“...irresistible and deeply sentimental...”

Israeli director Dan Katzir has picked a Rocky story to tell, but the boxer is replaced by an 84 year-old, diminutive Yiddish theatre wonder. It features her struggle to sustain an art form seemingly destined to die with her. For more than 40 years, Zypora Spaisman, a Polish Holocaust survivor, has fought to keep New York’s Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre alive. Despite glowing reviews, however, the theater seems to have lost its audience and faces certain extinction.

Then, during the brutal winter of 2000, a last-ditch effort is made to move the Folksbiene from the Lower East Side to Broadway. For eight days and nights (during Chanukah!) Katzir follows their quest for a modern-day miracle to save the longest running Yiddish theater in America.

The film includes many of the leading experts and stars of the Yiddish world. Sure to elicit laughter and tears, this moving documentary celebrates the beauty of a centuries-old culture and the devotion of those committed to preserving it.


Two hours before the screening of our film at the LA Jewish Film Festival there was a power outage in the whole area surrounding it. Luckily, thanks to my producer who got us the Skirball, we were able to make an amazing screening and the hundreds who showed up got to see the film in one of the best venues in Los Angeles.
Many young people showed up- and also some LA Icons like Real Estate Mogul Jona Goldrich, and legendary actor Theodore Bikel

Sunday, April 22, 2007


The LA Jewish Film Festival kicked it's opening night at the WGA theater in Beverly Hills. It was a cool red carpet event with a wonderful attendence.
This is the festival's second year, and it seem that it's here to stay.
Guess we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed that this festival will grow and develop and bring awareness to Jewish films also in LA.

Mazal Tov LA JFF.



Saturday, April 21, 2007


So, like in prior years, I had the bouncing castle party with a few friends.
This year was a greater success than previous years, as hundreds showed up.
Getting people to come to any event in LA is hard. Getting hundreds of high quality people to come, all of them our friends, was simply amazing.
There was a 68% chance of rain, but luckily we ended up in the 32% chance that it would n't rain.
I didn't bring my camera, but was lucky my friends Katalina and Karenpreet did bring.

Friday, April 20, 2007


This week was the LA chapter of French Tuesdays one year anniversery.
I was very fortunate to become a member and see a new type of LA nightlife.
Unlike most other LA events, this one has a dress code, which is awesome as it forces everyone to dress a little more elegantly.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Dear Ravit & Dan:

I just got home from this evening's screening of your beautiful film "The Yiddish Theater: A Love Story" for The Shalom Club of Sun City Hilton Head. We had an audience of about 250 people. I normally try to keep our film presentations to one hour and our lectures to forty five minutes. Your film, which ran eighty minutes, kept everyone glued to their seats and concluded with loud applause. The comments I received immediately afterwards were, without exception, highly favorable, both for subject and style. For many in our audience of senior citizens, particularly those brought up in NYC, it was especially poignant. Thank you again for allowing us to share in your creation.

Best regards,

Hank Druckerman

Friends and relatives of Dan Katzir were astonished when the Israeli filmmaker came up with a heart-grabbing documentary on New York's fading Yiddish theater.

For one, Katzir hardly knew a word of Yiddish.

For another, among Katzir's extended family, which included Israel's former president Ephraim Katzir and former prime minister Moshe Sharett, were those who had denigrated Yiddish as a Galut throwback, not fit for a Hebrew- speaking nation.

That all changed for Katzir a few years ago, when he met Zypora Spaisman, then producing and starring in "Grine Felder" (Green Fields) at New York's famed Folksbiene Yiddish Theater.
The octogenarian actress persuaded a reluctant Katzir to see the play. At the end of the performance, the former Israeli paratroop officer found himself moved to tears.

For the following week, Katzir and producer Ravit Markus tracked, in real time, the desperate struggle of the troupe to keep the show going and save the longest-running Yiddish theater in America.

As in an old melodrama, the landlord has announced that he will foreclose the place in eight days if the back rent isn't paid.

Spaisman, a Holocaust survivor from Poland, is indomitable.

"Hitler couldn't kill me, Stalin couldn't kill me," she boasts, and to an admirer says, "I am younger in my 80s than you are in your 50s."

For a brief moment of hope, it looks like the production may be able to move from the Lower East Side to Broadway, but the deal falls through.

Fate intervenes and envelops the city in a fierce blizzard, and the small audience dwindles further.

There's another moment of elation after The New York Times runs a feature article on "Grine Felder" and ranks it as one of the top off-Broadway shows.

Despite this, appeals to six New York millionaires to come up with $75,000 to save the Folksbiene fall on dead ears.

On New Year's Eve, the curtain falls for the last time.

Shortly after Katzir completed his film, "Yiddish Theater: A Love Story," Spaisman died.

Ironically, a few months later, New York Gov. George Pataki announced that the state would allot $200,000 to revive the Folksbiene in the fabled old Yiddish theater district on Second Avenue.

For Katzir, making the film was a learning experience in more ways than one. "Zypora Spaisman taught me about life," he reminisced last week. "When you have a passion for something, you feel connected."

Katzir, at 37, has made 10 documentaries, which have won a total of 22 international awards. "Yiddish Theater" has played to critical acclaim at 20 film festivals.

It has been warmly received in the Midwest and the Bible Belt, but to Katzir's frustration, the film has never been shown in New York itself.

He and Markus are now working on their first feature film, a coming-of-age story based on Katzir's exploration of America during a coast-to-coast trip.

"Yiddish Theater: A Love Story" will screen at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 25 at American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism), as part of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. Co-sponsors are the Israel Consulate and the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity. For ticket information, phone (323) 938-2531 or (818) 464-3300.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


So I found online this interesting review of our film on a blog titled:
Poland News Blog

SOMETHING FRESH: Documentaries Demand Attention
Sunday, February 25, 2007

How can you critique a valentine? Israeli filmmaker Dan Katzir has crafted a gem of a love story in his homage to Yiddish theater and the woman who has managed to keep the genre alive if not quite flourishing in the United States.

Katzir, born in 1969 into a prominent family that includes Israel's fifth president, Efraim Katzir, and the country's second prime minister, Moshe Sharet, is ranked as one of Israel's leading filmmakers. He has won numerous international awards for works including "Out for Love ... Be Back Shortly" and "Today You Are a Fountain Pen."

"Yiddish Theater: A Love Story" focuses on Zypora Spaisman, mainstay of Folksbeine, the only Yiddish theater left in New York, a city that once supported a dozen or more. She arrived in the United States in 1954, having escaped from her native Poland during World War II and spending time performing in Russia. Asked why she promotes Yiddish theater, Spaisman, who lost 150 family members to the Holocaust, replied, "My language will disappear."

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Documentary focuses on preserving culture
By China Reevers
April 2nd, 2007

American culture often times places importance on youth and disregards the value of the elderly. Zypora Spaisman was an old woman set in her ways, driven by her love for Yiddish culture and Yiddish theater, and demonstrates just how valuable something old can be.

"Yiddish Theater: A Love Story," shown March 24 at the East Lansing Film Festival, is a documentary following Spaisman as she works tirelessly to preserve what many see as a dying language, but which is her life.

She is an actress, and has been acting for 42 years when we meet her. Her life is devoted to Yiddish theater. Spaisman and other actors are performing in the play "Green Fields," a show that dates back to 1916, and is due to close on the last night of Hanukkah. The Mazer Theater can't let the play run any longer because the play is costing the venue money.

The cameras follow Spaisman, and the other members of the play, as they struggle to keep the play from closing. Each and every day the performers would go on stage for crowds that might have fewer than 40 people, but performed each time as if was a full house. For Spaisman, Yiddish theater was her life.

"Everything I do is Yiddish," she said.

It was her personal mission to keep alive a culture so many had attempted to destroy. According to the film, there are four reasons for the decline of Yiddish language and culture among Jews: the Holocaust, assimilation into American culture, the execution of Yiddish writers by former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and Israel's choice to make Hebrew the more valued language.

Spaisman said continually throughout the film she would never retire. She felt to "retire was a death sentence." It is her spunk and tenacity that drives this film. Her intensity for her culture serves as a reminder to respect heritage and tradition.

The themes of respecting what is old and living life to the fullest play together and pull the audience in. It is a film that is for everyone and anyone. It is not just an old woman's story, but the story of how important life is and how beautiful it can be.

This film is very raw and very real and even the background, New York, is displayed in a fashion not seen in many movies. It is not the landmarks that are highlighted, but the common streets and the gritty subways. The scenery complements the theme, suggesting longevity that is often forgotten and overlooked.

Zypora Spaisman is a woman who teaches more than just Yiddish theater, but also the necessity to fight and dream and believe until the end - and that is a lesson everyone can learn.

"Regarding Sarah" was the short film preceding "Yiddish Theater: A Love Story" at the festival, and also had a strong message about the value of life for the elderly. Sarah is a woman who finds herself in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's disease and is afraid of what losing her memory means. To counter the disease, Sarah begins recording every minute of every day so she may remember what she has done. The recording becomes an obsession as she buys multiple cameras, so she can tape from various angles, and other expensive equipment to better capture her life.

It's a bit absurd that an elderly woman would purchase such high-tech equipment and learn how to use editing tools, but it is the absurdity of the situation and her obsession which keeps this serious topic somewhat light and humorous.

At first, Sarah needs to record every moment for "proof of reality," but finds there is more reality in just living each day without working to capture it.

This short film was perfect with "Yiddish Theater: A Love Story," because both films are about the quality of life, and how life is only worth living when fully experienced.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Goodbye Brooklyn

So I guess, among the many places the film won't play- we can now also proudly count Brooklyn.

Here's their rejection letter. Guess NYC will have to continue waiting:

Dear Dan Katzir,

I am sorry to tell you that your work Yiddish theater: A love story has not been selected for the BAC 41st International Film and Video Festival. This year the festival jury had difficult decisions to make in ranking the work and recommending work both excellent in its production and also suitable for the film festival program. They were very sad not to be able to include several formidable film pieces such as your own.

I hope that you will feel welcome to attend some or all of the 7 screenings, which begin on May 5 and continue until May 12, 2007. You are invited to attend the end of the festival reception on Friday, May 11 after the “After Hours” screening at the Brooklyn Museum . It will be held after the “After Hours” Screening at Bar Sepia 234 Underhill Avenue , Brooklyn , 9pm onwards.

In addition to the film screenings BAC will offer two Professional Development Seminars for filmmakers during the film festival time frame, which may be of interest and use to you. They are free and will be held at our BAC offices in Dumbo on Tuesday May 8 5:30-8:00p.m. (appointments necessary), and at Long Island University , in the Media Arts Department, Room LLC 116, from 6:30 – 9:00 p.m. on May 9th.

Tuesday, May 8, 5:30pm – 8:30pm

Legal and Business Issues for Film/Video Professionals, Legal Clinic

(appointment necessary)

Presented by Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts

Brooklyn Arts Council Offices

55 Washington Street, Ste. 218

D.U.M.B.O, Brooklyn


Wednesday, May 9, 6:30pm-9pm

Screenwriting Workshop: Story Structure and Creative Explorations

Presented by Ela Thier, Award-winning Screenwriter

Long Island University, Spike Lee Screening Room

1 University Place

(at Flatbush and DeKalb) Brooklyn


Thank you for sending your submissions for consideration, and I hope that you will continue to participate in the many programs and services offered by the Brooklyn Arts Council.

Best wishes,

Ekwa Msangi-Omari