Tuesday, November 08, 2005

11.08.05: Northeast Tour: Bahston Rahks!

Soooo much happened during the Boston leg of the tour, and I don't even have time to catch up now but I'll tease ya with a few highlights until I have time to elaborate, such as...hobnobbing with famous Israeli actors, a raucous 150-person crowd at our midnight screening, hanging with Pakistani punks, and Seth flying all the way out to Boston for 24 hours so he could see the movie play at the theatre where we had our first date. Awwwww.

(Late Nite Q & A at the Boston Jewish Film Fest. And they say Jews talk with their hands?!)

More soon, and in the meantime I am SO ready to go home. This has been a looooooong three weeks.

(P.S. If you're really excited about all this nonsense, feel free to peruse my "vacation slideshow" visual account of the Northeast Tour at Flickr.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

10.29.05: Northeast Tour: The Genders

As I mentioned in the previous post, the Israeli rock band The Genders is on tour right now in the US and Heather and I had the pleasure of checking out their CD release show last night at the Lit Lounge.

They are probably stopping in your town soon, so GO SEE THEM.…

…Not just because they are a band from far away who got off their asses to come all the way over here…

…Not just because they put on a great show, fronted by Amir Neubach’s lanky frame, which is perfectly suited to thrashing about the stage…

…Not just because they don’t take themselves too seriously to sing the line, “ I put the Man in your Manishewitz, baby”…

…Not just because they are an Israeli band who rocks, but because they are a band who rocks. Period.

Friday, October 28, 2005

10.28.05: Northeast Tour: Makor Screening

Last night’s screening at Makor (part of the renowned 92nd St Y) was fantastic. It was a little hectic at first because the venue had just about overbooked itself, but once the dust settled, it was all good on many levels. (Remember: the Tao. See 10/22.)

Typically, during the actual screening, when I run out of phone calls to make, I sit around outside picking my nose or something while I watch the minutes tick by until the Q & A. This is probably the least fun part about touring. At this screening, it turned out that Makor actually had a lovely little café downstairs, so I was able to wine and dine (OK, water-and-dine) publicist and friend Brian Geldin to thank him for helping spread the word in NY.

I ran back up in time to greet the audience for a very interesting Q & A. It was an eclectic crowd that contained some of my best friends and, most notably, cinematographer Steve Lerner. Steve is the only member of our crew who had not yet seen the movie on the big screen, as he moved to New York from San Francisco after his time spent in Israel. Actually, this was the first time Steve and I had seen each other at all since before he shot footage for Jericho’s Echo, over a year ago. Who would have guessed from our fateful rooftop meeting in fall 2003 that we would end up having a unique bond through shared affection for a bunch of scraggly Israeli teenagers?

Anyway, the Q & A was made all the more meaningful by the presence and participation of both Steve and Amir, lead singer of the Genders, an energetic Israeli rock band who happened to be on the NY stop of their U.S. tour and were able to come by the screening. For me, having Amir there was especially cool, because he had also been at the Tel Aviv premiere back in April. If you remember reading my blog entries from back then, it was difficult for some of the bands in the movie to have any kind of perspective, watching themselves on the big screen. They didn’t necessarily understand that, although they are its protagonists, they are not the target audience for the film. Apparently, Amir had a new appreciation of the film in seeing it through the eyes of an American audience. He said something to the effect of. “This movie is impossible to watch in Israel, but it’s totally different to watch it over here.” I hope some of the bands in the movie will get to have the same experience.

Afterwards, we had a little after-party at the aforementioned Makor Café. Makor was nice enough to provide us with 2-for-1 drink tickets and we had the musical accompaniment of some guy who, despite sounding like the equivalent of the Israeli Billy Joel, attracted quite a crowd on Makor’s lower level stage. That get-together was really trippy for me, as Heather, my pep-rally-queen, managed to wrangle a bunch of graduates from our high school class who are now living in NY. How amazing to see these people all grown up and looking good and leading interesting lives in the big city. Thanks to everyone who came out and helped make it a screening worth blogging about.

PS Heather, saving the day as always, took a bunch of photos that I will post once I get them from her.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

10.27.05: Northeast Tour: Very Interesting Stuff, Dennis, Thanks.

“In the biblical story of Jericho,” the handsome, African-American baritone explained, “the ancient Hebrews broke down the walls of the city by raising a great noise. Filmmaker Liz Nord has found some young people in Israel today who are also raising a great noise…blah, blah, blah…”

Cut to said filmmaker, talking about her movie, Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land, on the WB11 morning news show. That was how my big apple TV debut began this morning. Heather (my best friend and NY hostess) was kind enough to set her alarm for a bleary-eyed 5:50 AM so that we could watch the broadcast, and we saw it when it aired again at 7:20.

I am very happy to report that my biggest mainstream publicity exposure to date was a real success, complete with well-edited clips from the movie, the JE website address being flashed on the screen, and even an almost-parody-like pan back to the newsdesk after the report, where the main newsdesk lady replied to the announcer mentioned above, “Very Interesting Stuff, Dennis, Thanks,” before moving on to her next report. It was too early in the morning to get all dorked out about it, but I did feel a little like The Supremes hearing their song on the radio for the first time or something.

The best part about it was that I had received some great advice from Asma Hassan, Muslim author and frequent news commentator whom I had met earlier in the week. I was talking with Asma about an upcoming project that I am currently researching about Muslim-American teenagers, and I mentioned that I was going to be interviewed the following day. She said that TV adds 20 lbs. to the face, which I knew from past experience, but she gave me the antidote, as well—it also takes away 20 lbs. from the hair! So the key to looking normal on TV is BIG HAIR. Well, thank you, Asma. I finally appeared on TV without my head looking like a big tomato!

The WB11 spots were a nice way to start a big day for JE. In a little while, I am meeting with someone from the Curriculum Initiative to discuss bringing the film into high schools, and tonight is our second Manhattan screening. I might have time to write about it if I’m not to busy being mobbed by screaming fans all over the city. Hee hee.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

10.25.05: Northeast Tour: Una Bagel con Shmear (aka I Heart NY)

I love New York.
(Descending into the 181st Street Subway)

I love the buzz, the hum, the whir, the sputter, the vibrating energy of the place.

I love that when I descended into the city's underbelly this morning and surveyed the subway car's rowed seating, every single person on the entire car was seated next to someone else of a different color, with a different story, a different departure point and a different destination.

I love that everyone knows what schlep and shmear mean.

I love that in a city where so many serious things happen, there is enough frivolity to account for an entire shop devoted solely to cupcakes and another one to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

(The Cupcake Cafe, Manhattan)

I LOVE New York.
And I am SO excited for the screening here on Thursday.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

10.23.05: Northeast Tour: 3-1-5 Represent!

Contrary to my expectations, last night’s screening at the Syracuse JCC catered to one of the most diverse crowds of any event yet. The ages ranged from 11 to about 75. There were Jews and non-Jews, peaceniks and staunch Zionists, Israelis, Americans and a mix of other nationalities.

I never would have guessed that it would be a crowd in the medium-sized metropolis of Syraucse, NY (as opposed to a small community like Eugene or a huge community like Manhattan), where what I always hope will happen at the screenings actually did. There was a big debate during the Q & A where the almost the whole audience chimed in with their varying opinions on contemporary Israeli politics. It started out with a young Israeli in the crowd who found it offensive that some of the punks in the movie chose not to join military service, when he himself was about to join up and, in his words, “protect their families.” It went from there, with a whole range of ideas represented.

I was glad to be at a point where I can remove myself enough from my movie to successfully moderate such a discussion without taking things personally.

Syracuse, New York: A Forum for Diverse Political Ideas. Who knew?

PS Big shout-outs to Mom and Dad Nord who were the best “roadies” ever during the upstate NY leg of the tour. I love you guys!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

10.22.05: Northeast Tour: The Manlius Cinema

I grew up in a very small town. It only has two traffic lights. I never really realized how small it was until after I had been away in big cities for a few years, and I returned to the shocking truth that even the word “town” is an overstatement. I grew up in a village.

It made tonight’s “homecoming” screening all the more fun, since all sorts of characters from said village and the surrounding ones came out of the woodwork. The 50-or-so-person crowd held some of my parents’ friends and some of my friends’ parents and some of my favorite high school teachers and some fellow F-M high school alums who I haven’t seen in ten years. It was almost as if a man with a boming voice was going to emerge from behind the movie screen and announce, “Liz Nord! THIS is your life!”
(Home Sweet Home)

Screening at the Manlius Art Cinema (one of only 2 art houses in the entire Central NY region) was a worlds-collide experience in and of itself, as I had spent so much time there growing up. I mentioned in my introduction to the crowd that I still remembered going to see one of the Star Wars movies there when I was a little kid, and thinking that we were actually entering a ship because of the cinema’s signature round windows. Later, my first high school boyfriend worked there and, true to the nature of my small town, his mother was in the audience last night.

The screening was a bit problematic because (I discovered two days before the screening), the cinema was not equipped to screen video. Yikes! The longtime cinema owner, Nat Tobin, saved the day by scrounging one up from a friend, but since the sound system was prepped for film and not video, there was a slight echo on all of the dialogue. Fortunately, the older crowd all just assumed that they were losing their hearing and didn’t hold the movie accountable, but I hated the fact that they had to experience a sub-par viewing. If there is one thing I’ve learned from touring, it’s that there is no perfect screening. Every venue or crowd or town has its issue, and so it’s all a good exercise in the tao for me. (OMG, I am SO California!)
(An art student at my old high school)

One highlight of the day was visiting the art wing of my old high school and speaking to some students. After getting over the shock that it has really been ten years, I truly enjoyed catching up with my favorite teacher, Mr. Niedzwiecki, and some of the other great F-M educators. (We always called him “Mr. Ned” so I loved meeting his wife at the screening later; she introduced herself as “Mrs. Ned.”)

My two main messages for the kids were:
1) There is life outside of Fayettville, NY.
2) You can have a career in the creative arts.

I was proud to be a living example of those two points that I wanted so desperately to believe when I was in their shoes ten years ago.

Friday, October 21, 2005

10.21.05: Northeast Tour: Ithaca really is “Gorges.”

Central New York is so beautiful. The fact that I took it for granted when I lived here was confirmed, as I glimpsed out of the soon-to-be-landing airplane window onto what looked like a model train set. The multi-colored train cars bisected huge, green, silo-dotted expanses that were offset by blazing red and yellow patches of autumn trees. It was stunning.

After hitting the ground, my dad drove us to the Ithaca screening along some back roads, so that I could see more of the gorgeous fall foliage that I so miss living in seasonless San Francisco. I could practically smell the wood fires burning and hear the fallen leaves crunching as we approached the Cornell Cinema. The pleasant drive was only topped by the extremely warm reception that we were given upon arriving, by Mary and Chris from the venue.

I highly recommend the Cornell Cinema as a destination for any touring filmmaker. The staff was not only as nice as could be, but they did great publicity for the show and treated me with the utmost professional respect. Plus, they run a fabulous, eclectic program that I was honored to be a part of. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know that I have screened at a lot of venues now. I’ve run into things like missing audio cables, inaccurate publicity, dim projector bulbs, and all sorts of mishaps, so it made tonight’s screening stand out all that much more.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

10.20.05: Northeast Tour: Homeward Bound

I am sitting in the airport terminal en route from the Big Apple to Syracuse, NY. (G-d bless JetBlue for their wireless internet hubs. Oy! The wonders of modern technology!) Syracuse would not necessarily be a tour stop for everyone in my situation, but what can I say? Before moving to Boston, London and now San Francisco, the little teeny Syracuse suburb known as Fayettville, NY, was my home.

The first show of this tour was last night, and it was OK. The venue had the screening listed in all of the big publications…even the New Yorker magazine. Too bad they all published THE WRONG DATE! Just one of the many joys of the road. At least I can blame the less-than-stellar turnout on that little faux pas. Between that and the new Jewish Week review of “Joshua’s Echo”, I sometimes wonder if there is anyone in this world who is not a complete freakin idiot.

The good news is that the folks who did turn up were amazing! Two of my absolute favorite people in the world were there, Heather and Aunt Babe (thanks for your help!), along with a bevy of people from my past (like Jon who lived down the street from me 8 years ago in London), people who were involved with the movie (Peter whose photos appear on screen and Brian who helped with publicity) and a big shout out to my NBF Isa, who brought like 6 people and who just published her first cookbook, Vegan with a Vengeance.

All in all, I guess it’s good to start out the tour with a just-OK show so they can all improve from here. So, onward…

P.S. Whoever decided that these velour sweatsuits should be in style is an absolute GENIUS. They are the perfect travel wear—comfy, no belts or metal to go off in the security gate, AND they make your ass look good!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

09.21.05 Train Tour: Portland and Pics

If you are reeeeeeallly interested in all of this nonsense, you can check out all of the pics from the tour through the fabulous Flickr service here.

Portland was OK--a great crowd made up for some lousy technical difficulties that were had. I think my grammar is improper there but hey, it's the middle of the night. Give a girl a break! The best part about Portland was that my brother and his family showed up from Salem and brought a picnic and a whole lotta love. It was rad tailgating my own screening with tupperwares full of veggie sushi!

One thing that this little Pacific Northwest tour did was get me REALLY excited for the Northeast tour in October. If the shows were all pretty good on this jaunt, in cities where I basically knew noone, I expect that they will be 100x better in Boston, NY, Syracuse and Ithaca. After all, I'll be screening in the city where I was born AND the city where punk rock was born. I can't wait.

Monday, September 19, 2005

09.19.05 Train Tour: The Kindness of Friends and Strangers

(Out the train window between Olympia and Seattle.)

The Seattle dates (4 shows at the super cool living-room-parlor-style Grand Illusion Cinema) were great because of the rays of sunshine emanated by the amazing people around me. The presence of these people made it OK that one of the shows drew an audience of only 4 people. Yes, 4, as in one-less-than-five. (Well, I said to myself, it's an absolutely gorgeous, sunny Saturday afternoon in a city where it rains most of the time, and besides, we have 3 more shows to make up for it.)
(Seth "working it" at the Grand Illusion.)

So who are these wonderful people, you ask? Well, one of them is my Seth, who came up from San Francisco to join me for the weekend in Seattle. He came, not only to share the experience, but because I had to “staff” the doors of the theatre in exchange for donation of the space. That leads me to Guerren, and the incredible all-volunteer staff at the Grand Illusion, who generously invited me to screen at the cinema and keep the entire proceeds. Amazing that once again I am screening at a place with a volunteer staff. One the one hand, it is a blessing to screen in places where people are that committed to cinema, but on the other hand it is incredibly sad that single-screen theatres have been so squashed by the modern mulitplexes that this is their only way to survive.

Finally, Seattle was amazing because of the human rainbow known as Shelly! Shelly read about the film in Tikkun magazine a while ago, and we've been kind of pen pals ever since. She is SO NICE. Not only did she help set up the screening, but she gave over her brand new only-lived-in-one-day apartment and bed to me and Seth, complete with a well-stocked fridge. She and I have too many quirky things in common to mention. She's a long lost sister for sure. It's meeting people like Shelly who make all the less-than-pleasant filmmaking and promoting experiences well worth their while.
(Me in front of the Grand Illusion Cinema. Hey! There's Shelly at the top of the stairs!)
In the end, we had a pretty good turnout for the combined shows, and because we were working the doors, I got to meet pretty much everyone who came out. So many nice and interesting people come to see my movie, and I absolutely love meeting them. There will be a lot of heartache, money, and time saved if I ever get a movie released theatrically without going on tour, but in a way I can't imagine just putting a product out there without this interactive step.

Seattle felt more like a vacation with a little work thrown in for good measure, because we had two days there instead of an in-out-quickie and Seth and I made it our business to be tourists at least for a little while. What a cool city!! Very walkable, independent-business-friendly, great views, a lovely waterfront, tons of local music, locally grown produce out the wazoo, and the COOLEST LIBRARY EVER. I don't necessarily check out the local library (no pun intended) every time I see a new city, but thankfully Shelly recommended stopping by and it was well worth it. The design nerd (designerd?) in me was in form-function heaven. I think I'd pretty much move in if I were a Seattle-ite.
(Pike Place Market, Seattle)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

09.17.05 Train Tour: Well I Went To School in Olympia, and Everyone’s the Same (or something like that)

All I really knew about Olympia before I arrived was the above line from a Hole song, which as I recall, didn’t have the most flattering things to say about the town. I also knew that bands like Hole had come out of the area, and that Olympia had been a hub of the Riot-grrl movement that I so admired in high school. (I was never a huge Hole fan but I did make my high school sweetheart wear a Hole shirt to the prom under his tuxedo jacket because it matched his pink hair ;)

At any rate, I was really excited to show my underground-music-movie in an underground-music-loving town, and my enthusiasm was met equally by the 75-or-so people in the crowd at the awesome Capitol Theatre. Just as I had hoped, Olympia rocked!
(Rad Volunteer Staff at the Capitol Theatre)

The Capitol Theatre is a funky old single screen movie house, sort of a mix of the grandeur of the Castro with the hip factor of the Roxie, for you San Franciscans out there. It’s almost entirely volunteer run which means that the folks there REALLY love movies and that always helps.

One of the small miracles that happens “on the road” happened in Olympia. Since I didn’t really know anyone in town, I was planning on staying in a hotel. This was a bummer, of course, as that would have pretty much eaten up any money that came in from the show. I was saved by an email that I received the night before I left SF. The email came from a gentleman named Arrington de Dionyso, an avante-garde jazz and rock musician/performance artist, who had recently played in Israel at one of the Tel Aviv clubs featured in the documentary, and was hosted while there by one of the band members from Punkache. Though he is touring for much of the year, Arrington happens to be in Olympia now and he offered to host me. He is the only other American I have met who has been to the Patiphone club, let alone performed there, so it was really special for me to have him at the screening and to get to hang out with him (and his adorable daughter) a bit.
(Arrington de Dionyso of Old Time Relijun)

Olympia as a city has the vibrancy that I felt was lacking in Eugene, and its location on the shores of the Puget Sound adds to its physical beauty. The people I met were awesome, too. Lon, who helped set up the show and promoted the heck out of it (you rock, Lon!), arranged a dinner with Helen from the Olympia Film Society, and his son Sasha and Sasha’s friend Gus and my host Arrington and his daughter and everyone was so cool, So you mix good people and a good city and a good screening and it’s pretty much a recipe for good times!
(Instruments at Arrington & Allison's place)

P.S. Train ride between Olympia and Seattle, along the water, absolutely fucking gorgeous!

Friday, September 16, 2005

09.16.05 Train Tour: The Mean Streets of Eugene, OR

So the train got a little less romantic as my arrival in Eugene was further and further delayed to the point where I was afraid I would miss my screening and my body started to feel like a stale pretzel left out on a park bench. However, it was all for a good cause. Turns out that Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks. They are owned by the freight trains, so the passenger train has to pull over and wait for the other trains to go around whenever they cross paths. In our case, we were delayed many times by trains piled with wood, headed to help rebuild New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.
(My savior, Hank, in his sweeet hatchback)

But I finally arrived in Eugene (in time for my show) and was extremely happy to see my host, Troma-esque filmmaker Hank Weintraub, waiting for me at the station. Hank and his adorable girlfriend Sara were really nice hosts—thanks, guys! Hank took me out to dinner with Yonatan, who originally contacted me about bringing the film up to Eugene. I wish I had had more time to talk with him—it’s not every day you meet a former skinhead punk, turned religious Jew, with a half-brother who is a devout practicing Muslim. Seriously.
(Yonatan preparing for the screening)

The screening was at a mainly volunteer-run downtown art space called D.I.V.A. The guys there asked me to spread the word about D.I.V.A. as a potential screening venue, which made me realize that us indie filmmakers really need something that is the equivalent of “Book Your Own Fucking Life.” BYOFL is a resource for independent bands who are trying to book their own tours—it lists venues and contacts and stuff in tons of cities. So maybe this is a little project I will take on, or at least I’ll start compiling lists of all the places that I’ve screened as a resource for others.

At any rate, the show was good, and a good reality check. Despite a large picture in the Eugene Weekly and all the other flyering and publicity that was done, there were only about 30 people there. Apparently, that was a “good turnout” for this venue but still. Don’t get me wrong—I truly appreciate each and every person that showed up, and we had a really great and intimate Q & A but I sure hope the other shows prove a little more fruitful. Onward to Olympia!

P.S. Because I arrived so late, I didn’t get to see much of Eugene. When we passed through town on the way to Hank’s, it looked like the picture perfect little town. I really thought everything was adorable, with little pitch-roofed gnome houses and gardens and brick lanes. Boy, was I wrong! Downtown, near the screening, showed me another side of Eugene, where almost an entire block of buildings were abandoned and a gang of about 20 street kids were aimlessly hanging around. It was interesting to see both sides of the coin.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

09.15.05 Train Tour: All Aboard!

It’s all so romantic! Seth reminded me last night, as he dropped me off for my first overnight train trip, that I should appreciate the experience because it may be the last time I am able to take such a ride. After all, passenger trains are a dying breed in this country. That made it all the more exciting when the silver train approached, glinting and howling at the moon. I pictured myself waving a scarf out the window at Seth, with a song like “Moon River” playing in the background, a lone tear tricking down my face.

The romance continues out the window. Last night, all I could see was moonlight rippling on a fleeting body of water. Today, we’ve passed rolling hills, pine-covered mountains, cow pastures dotted with rusting silos, white cranes resting on swampy pools of bright green algae, and tiny, one-stoplight towns like Klamath Falls.

I have been on board for about 12 hours now, and in a couple more I’ll arrive in Eugene, Oregon, at the first stop of this tour.

P.S. They actually do say, “All aboard!”
P.S.S. As I embark on this trip, one of my bestest friends, Dustin, is going on a trip of his own. He is off to Japan to promote his line of super cool hand-printed bicycle messenger gear, Cadence Clothing. Good luck, buddy!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

09.11.05 Train Tour: Hittin the Tracks

I finally got a digital camera! Woo! Here I am using it for the first time:

I mention this because I am about to hit the rails with Jericho's Echo which means a new slate of blog entries, and now it will be much easier to pepper them with photographs for your viewing pleasure!

So yes, I leave on Wednesday for an overnight train trip up to Eugene, Oregon where the first show of the "Jericho's Echo Pacific Northwest Train Tour" will happen. I've never been to Eugene (and never quite imagined I would end up there) and I don't know anyone in town other than the lovely lads who have set up the screening, so it should be an adventure. After that I am headed to Olympia, Seattle and Portland....and I hope you'll join me. ALL ABOARD!

Friday, August 05, 2005

08.05.05 SFJFF: Berkeley Screening

I wasn't quite sure how the stereotypical Berkeley, Birkenstock-sporting, post-hippie, PC intellectual would take to my film, but as soon as I saw the skinny kid with braces and a "Punk's Not Dead" t-shirt in line with his mom, I knew I was in business!

The SFJFF Berkeley screenings this year were at the Berkeley Rep Theatre. This venue is typically used for stage productions so the seats are set up in a really interesting, multi-level, multi-angle manner. It was cool, especially because I had been SO nervous before the big Castro screening that I wasn't worried about this one at all which obviously makes it much more pleasant for me and probably for everyone around me, too.

(Answering audience questions after the Berkeley screening)

The highlight of the evening was a dinner set up by the festival, with me, Seth, some festival people, and the entourage from a movie that played earlier in the evening. The movie was "Isn't This a Time," a doc about an annual folk concert at Carnegie Hall. I have to admit, my first thought was, "Oh jeez, what are me and these old hippies going to talk about?" Amazingly, it was the music that brought us together...as we created links between the folk protest music of the sixties and the punk rock protest music of today.

I had the honor of sitting across the table from Ronnie Gilbert, the spunky singer of the formerly blacklisted band, The Weavers (Pete Seeger's first band), who were featured in "Isn't This a Time." Unlike some elders of her generation, she totally got was I am trying to do with Jericho's Echo, and related her own history of performing because she felt compeeled to do so by the ills of society.

One of the SFJFF board members, filmmaker Gail Dolgin, made a lovely toast, something to the effect of "To the generation who inspired us (pointing toward Ronnie), and the generation who's working to inspire us now (pointing toward me)."

Hear, hear!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

07.28.05 SFJFF: So, how did it go?

Well, it was great. All worries dropped the minute the party started. Although I do worry like a grandmother with an ulcer before a big event, I have the uncanny ability to stop worrying the minute the action gets going. Phew.

Our pre-party at the Lucky 13 Bar was fun. The bar has a rocknroll vibe and a good jukebox so that helped set the tone. This crazy old hippie-punk-activist guy called "Diamond Dave" showed up--a true Bay Area character--and he told me that the bar in its former life used to host some of the area's wildest punk shows, so I guess we were paying a homage of sorts. Our drink sponsor was He'Brew (The Chosen Beer) so that in and of itself was pretty funny. I didn't have time to drink because I was too busy being a hostess and greeting all of the AMAZING peeps that came out. We definitely had a good Jew/Punk/Jewish-Punk mix going on. There were some friends there that I hadn't seen in a couple years (Jo!) and some that I hadn't seen in about TEN years (Tal!!!) so that was a treat.

We headed over to the theatre a bit earlier than the rest of the party to set up and then, BAM! Movie time! There it was--Jericho's Echo on the huge, luminous Castro Theatre screen in front of a 400-or-so person audience. Wow.

(The Castro crowd gets ready to watch Jericho's Echo!)

I wish I could say that NONE of my fears were confirmed, but unfortunately my concerns about the lateness of the hour were pretty spot-on. Not only was the film programmed at 10:30 PM on a Wednesday night, but they played a 20 minute short beforehand so Jericho's Echo didn't even start until 11! That meant that people did have to get up and leave to catch public transportation before my film was over. That was definitely a bummer, as was the notion that had the film played a couple hours earlier, there probably would have been a much bigger crowd.

That being said, it really was awesome to screen there and the people who did come were very enthusiastic. Nancy Fishman, the programming director for the festival, introduced my film and called me a "filmmaker to watch." Oooooh, I like the sound of that! I got some questions during the Q & A (my favorite part!) that I hadn't been asked before, so that always makes it more interesting. Someone talked about the association between punk rock and certain drugs, like heroin in NY, and if there was a particularly Middle Eastern drug associated with Israeli punk. I was glad about that one because it gave me one more chance to bust stereotypes. I could honestly answer that aside from the massive amounts of beer and vodka consumption I witnessed during my shoots, I never saw one illegal drug being used the entire time I was in Israel.

All in all, the best part about the screening was feeling so supported by my community, like I really have a place here. There were so many excellent people in attendance from all over the Bay Area and from all different parts of my life...my favorite waitress Mary, Steve from the Landmark Theatres, my college pal Ryan, my high school pal Hannah's parents, my in-laws, Floyd from Fat Wreck Chords, Jericho's Echo's editor Joseph and motion graphics designer Phil, some of the middle-school teachers to whom I have given media workshops, Rachel and Carlton from the Mission Minyan, lots of friends...the list goes on. It's pretty amazing to think I have only been here 5 years and I have somehow touched so many lives.

To me, the term INDEPENDENT FILMMAKER isn't really accurate, because really we are dependent on that kind of support from our communities at large. Thanks, San Francisco, from the bottom of my heart.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

07.27.05 SFJFF: Heartburn

It's about 5:33 AM on the morning of my big Castro screening. Did I say big? I mean BIG. At least that is how I am feeling right now. By all rights, I should be sleeping. The screening doesn't even start til 10:30 PM and there's a short playing beforehand. That means that I have to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a Q & A about 19 hours from now. But what am I doing? I'm sitting at my computer with heartburn writing to you folks and worrying about everything that could possibly go wrong tonight. I wonder if because it's a Jewish film festival there is an extra amount of neuroses in the air?!

Since I'm hoping this blog will be a resource for other filmmakers who are doing the festival circuit (and to make myself feel better), I'm going to let you in on some of the things that I am concerned about at this bleary-eyed moment so that you know you are not alone if you ever feel this way before a BIG screening.

First of all, let me share some advice: don't go out and eat a bunch of junkfood before bed on the night before your screening. I know, should be a no-brainer. But you see, my in-laws are in town alll the way from Florida for this event. (I know--that's love!) and my brother-in-law and his gal came up from LA to meet us all last night (More love!). They didn't get in 'til late and Seth and I joined everybody for a late-nite "snack". Of course, all we could find by the time we settled down to eat was a greasy spoon in the backwaters of Milbrae and, well, let's just say that I'm sure my menu choices contributed to my current discomfort.

Movie side-note: This was after, by the way, I got to see 4 films by directors who are all here at the festival and who I have had the pleasure of meeting. One of them was the lovely film Poumy. If you are a faithful reader of this blog (That's you, Mom and Dad), you may remember that I stayed next door to Marian, the producer of Poumy, at the Toronto Jewish Film Fest. Well, the director of said film is Sam Ball, whose work I have long admired. We finally met during this fest when we were guests together on the whacky cable access "Movie Close-Up" show and I must say he is an absolute gem. I hope we get to see more of each other. The other films were The Nuclear Physicist Gives His Son a Haircut, a sweetly self-reflective animation by the sweet New Yorker Hanan Harchol, Professional Revolutionary: The Life of Saul Wellman by Judy Montell and Commune by Jonathan Berman.

OK, drum roll, please....time for brutal honesty....

5. Expectations are so high because of all the amazing press we've been getting that people leave saying what I usually say after a movie...something to the effect of "I don't see what all the hoopla was about!"

4. People get up and leave before the movie is over because it is programmed SO LATE that if the opening ceremonies go long, folks will miss the last public transportation if they don't split early.

3. I thought that the Castro had 800 seats. I just found out it has 1400. WHAT?! I was worried about filling 800!!

2. I pass out on stage because I'm up at 5-freakin-thirty AM or I trip on the stairs on the way up to the stage for the introduction or I just get under the bright lights and look like a heroin junkie from lack of sleep.

1. The scariest thing--the Beta-SP dub made for this festival has never been tested all the way through. What if all other fears are allayed and the theatre is full and IT DOESN'T WORK?? AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

OK, I feel better now. Do you?

Monday, July 25, 2005

07.25.05 SFJFF: Inspiration

"I believe it is the role of the Jews to be on the side of the oppressed."
-Walter Bernstein, former blacklisted writer and
SFJFF Freedom of Expression award recipient

I have found the festival programming this year to be extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking, particularly on the topic of Jewish morality.

More soon--gotta run for now. xx

Sunday, July 24, 2005

07.24.05 SFJFF: Erik Van Loon

What is a towering, blonde, aryan-as-anything man in a cowboy hat and a tight blue woman's sweater vest doing at the SF Jewish Film Festival? This should have a great punchline but it doesn't--it just has an answer. He is Erik Van Loon. He is here all the way from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, and he is my official partner-in-crime for the festival. As one of the local filmmakers here, I feel I owe it to all the folks who have been so kind to me in other cities, to make our visiting filmmakers feel welcome...and really, it's selfish, because meeting these extraordinary people from all over the world is the one of the highlights of "festival life" for me. Check out what Erik has contributed to the fest:
We expand our festival's scope this year with renowned Dutch artist Erik van Loon's ineffably haunting 11-hour film installation A Victim's Perspective...
...This past January marked the 60th anniversary of the Death March from Auschwitz: as the Russians advanced on the German lines, the 60,000 remaining prisoners at Auschwitz were forced to walk 40 miles in the bitter Polish winter under the most brutal circumstances to an evacuation station, where they would be transported to German camps away from the front. Some 20,000 are thought to have perished along this path. On the anniversary in 2005, van Loon, with a camera mounted to his body, walked this same route.


Saturday, July 23, 2005

07.23.05 SFJFF: Opening Night and Shabbat Shalom

I'm getting to that point of almost euphoric anticipation that happens before a big screening. (This precedes the all night tossing and turning, worrying about everything that could go wrong). The excited feeling comes from the opening events that have taken place over the past couple of days. They're getting me all ramped up for the adventures to come.

The big opening event at any festival is, of course, opening night. The Castro Theatre was decked out in its finest, for the always overcrowded but high-spirited pre-party up in the theatre's mezzanine. Maybe it's just because it's the Jewish film festival, but this party always has the feeling of a Bar-Mitzvah to me....what with all the kisses, finger foods, and older women putting mini-brownies from the dessert tray into their purses "for later." Of course, I am right in there among the masses, fighting for bits of delicious foodstuffs--the carmelized brie was the winner for me this year.

The opening night film was "Go For Zucker!", a German-Jewish comedy by the adorable German director Dani Levy. I enjoyed the film--it was refreshing to see a comedy for once, when my typical fare consists of uber-serious documentaries or big-budget sci-fi special effects blowouts. I won't spend too much time on a synopsis, but basically it is about two German brothers who haven't spoken for 40 years. When their mother dies, her stiupulation for them to get her inheritance is that they must sit shiva together for 7 days and make up. Pretty basic stuff, except that one brother is a gambling, but somehow loveable, hedonist, and the other is an Orthodox Jew.

The most interesting part was hearing Dani Levy speak after the film. First of all, he was just fun to watch--he seemed to have the goofy neurosis of Woody Allen mixed with the energy and abandon of Roberto Benini. He said that he was shocked how well it had done in Germany (It won all sorts of German film awards, including Best Director). He said that Germans were starving for portraits of modern Jews, unassociated with the Shoah. I was surprised to hear that it is likely that residents in much of rural Germany don't even KNOW any Jewish people. I guess this shouldn't surprise me, but I just hadn't thought about it. I suppose in much of the rural U.S. the same could be true, but for very different reasons. At any rate, Dani talked about how the urban German comic sensibility was shaped by Jews in the entertainment business in the early 20's, much like in New York City. He theorized that that is one of the reasons why so many German gentiles can relate to his movie. I have really mixed feelings about the phenomenon--it's kind of uplifting and yet so fucked up at the same time.

The most EXCITING part was feeling the opening night energy in the Castro and realizing that, indeed, my dream of screening in the amazing place will be realized next week!

The following night (last night), I was lucky enough to attend the Filmmakers' Shabbat Dinner. It further excited me about the rest of the festival ahead because of the genuinely warm feelings all over the place. It was held at the gorgeous studios for PhiloTV, a post-production firm, but they managed to make it feel homey by having everyone in the entire joint introduce themselves and give their affiliations to the festival. More than one person called the festival their "favorite Jewish holiday". One woman, a festival board member, said that her father passed away one week ago and she was attending the festival as her memorial to him. Wow. There were a LOT of people in the room who had been involved with the festival for all--or at least most--of its 25 years. I felt really proud to chant the Shabbat blessings over the bread and wine with such an incredible crowd of filmmakers, former blacklistees, festival board/staff, and just plain film lovers.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

07.20.05: SF Jewish FIlm Fest is Here!

(Inside the amazing Castro Theatre)

I am SO excited. I have dreamed about this festival, and screening at the gorgeous old movie palace, the Castro Theatre, for years. Here's what I wrote in a recent article for Film/Tape World on the topic:

“I could totally do that,” I thought to myself, as the filmmaker smoothly answered questions on the stage of the Castro Theatre before a sea of newly won-over fans. “Totally.”

I was at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival about five years ago, shortly after having moved to the Bay Area from Boston. I saw so many diverse films there and witnessed so many enthusiastic filmmakers gliding gracefully up to the stage following their screenings, that I became inspired. After all, I had a professional background in education, technology and graphic design, so documentary filmmaking seemed like a natural leap. And the prospect of having my very own post-film Q & A session was icing on the cake. Some filmmakers shy away from this opportunity, but not me. I was ready to answer questions before I had ever even come up with an idea for a film!

The following year at the Jewish Film Festival, I went right up to its longtime director, the venerable Janis Plotkin, and said, “Hello. My name is Liz Nord. I am going to have a film in your festival one day.”

“What chutzpah this girl has!”, Ms. Plotkin must have thought. And she would have been right—I still had yet to take a film class, let alone write a proposal or begin production on a piece. But she smiled politely and wished me luck.

I have worked at, volunteered, and attended hundreds of film festivals since then and this year, my dream has finally come true. My first feature-length documentary will be screening at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival this summer.

Last night, I attended the festival's 25th Anniversary Gala, to get the party started right! (The festival's offical opening night is tomorrow). I even managed to drag my man along (Looking quite dapper I might add), and was so glad he came. The wonderful folks at the festival have seen me hanging around the office quite a bit lately, so it was nice for them to get a little more context of my life.

(me and Seth at the gala)

I have worked and volunteered at so many festivlas in this town. I can't tell you how fun it is to be on the other side...to be one of the guests that those overworked and underpaid festival workers are working so hard to please! The best part about it is that I've SO been there, so hopefully I know how to throw much love back at them. I know you can sometimes feel underappreciated as a festival employee. My buddy and local indie film luminary Molli Amara Simon is working for the fest this year, along with some other sweet and kind folks who I am looking forward to spending more time with as the festival progresses...like Dafna, Ian, Betsy, Leo, and Chris from Larsen Associates.

Speaking of Larsen Associates (the publicisit for the fest), today is my day to be a big fish in a small pond...glub, glub. Yes, today is the day that Liz Nord takes over the Bay Area media on three fronts and the Jewish Media Conspiracy is once again proven to be true. Ha ha. But seriously, today the SF Bay Guardian weekly newspaper comes out with a feature on yours truly. This afternoon, I will be interviewed on KALW by Sandip Roy (yayyyy! I LOVE public radio!!!), and this evening I will appear on Movie Talk TV Program. Bam! Bam! Bam! And what am I doing? Sitting on my couch, writing to y'all. Now, don't you feel special?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

05.09.05: Toronto Jewish Film Festival Reportback

E-mail from Seth:
“Remember to eat maple syrup, play hockey, and say something nice to someone. Those things are all Canadian.”

Airplane-breath me is just returning to San Francisco from Jericho’s Echo’s second international premeiere and I am looking forward to being home for a while. Don’t get me wrong--if every festival experience is as wonderful as the last two, I could definitely live with jetsetting for a while!

To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the Toronto screening (What me, worry?). The San Francisco and Tel Aviv screenings absolutely spoiled me with their sold out crowds and great enthusiasm. Those were home turf, and this was my first away-game, so to speak. Plus, it was a midnight screening in a town where I didn’t really know anyone, and my mom and dad were driving up from Syracuse to check it out. Oy vey.

Well, my fears were pretty much blown away the minute I arrived at the hotel to discover that my screening had been written up in three of the main local papers (including a 5-freaking-star review in the Eye Weekly! Wow!). Shortly thereafter, the problem of not really knowing anyone was solved, too. I was on the same flight and next-door neighbors at the HoJo with the lovely Bay Area producer Marian Sofaer (whose short film. Poumy. I loved!) and so we went as dates to the Shabbat dinner given in honor of the filmmakers on the evening of our arrival.

Before even entering the party, we ran into a confused-yet-stylish looking young man who we assisted in finding the event. This turned out to be fellow filmmaker Jeffrey P, Nesker, who was to become my New Best Friend for the weekend. As soon as we entered the dinner. I felt like part of the mishpacha. I give so much credit to the fine staff and board members of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival for making all of its out-of-town guests feel so warmly and immediately welcome. We were greeted by two of the people who I did already know a bit: my swanky Canadain distributor Ryan Bruce Levey and the admirable Israeli-cum-Canadian producer Amit Breuer.

The dinner was an absolute highlight of the weekend. It was held in the beautiful home of the festival director Helen Zukerman. The food was delish, complete with Shabbat candlelighting and chalah-eating. It was nice to be reminded that is was indeed a Jewish film festival, and that despite differences in ages and origins, I had something important in common with everyone in that room. The evening was crowded, noisy, funny, food-filled, and in all these ways and more, very Jewish.

One of the funny and Jewishy things about TJFF is that they are known as one of the only festivals who appeases its antsy crowds by handing out noshs to the ticket-holders waiting in line. My parents and I wtinessed this at the opening night film The Syrian Bride as volunteers careened down the aisles with falafel balls on toothpicks and other snacks. Now, that is my kind of festival.

The midnight screening on opening night was a little ditty I like to call Jericho’s Echo: Punk Rock in the Holy Land. My parents were kvelling all over the place! After all my worrying about it, I was thrilled to have them there and I think they were thrilled to be there. We got a pretty good crowd, considering the late hour, and the response was positive. It was truly a good sign when almost the entire audience stayed for the Q & A, even though it was around 2 AM! I told them, and I meant it, “You are hardcore!”

The rest of the weekend consisted of sunshine, a lovely Mother's Day brunch, a shoe museum (yes, a museum of shoes, sweet!), a boozy night out with the young filmmakers, and of course....MOVIES!

Merci beaucoup to all of my new friends in Toronto…especially the other young filmmakers I met who are certainly destined for greatness: Jeffrey Nesker (A Snowbird’s Paradise?), Igal Hecht (Not in My Name) and Ramin Farahani(Jews of Iran) ; along with the great dudes who helped promote my screening: Joshua from JewishMayhem.com (check out my article there on Why Being Jewish is Punk Rock!) and Aubin from Punknews.org.

Now that I am giving ‘props, I want to take a small detour and recognize two of my favorite bloggers, who also happen to be a couple of the coolest Jews around. Now, I only flirt with blogging, but these two are downright blog-ho’s (and I mean that in the nicest way possible), writing often about themselves and their amazing projects. So withour further ado…let me introduce you to MOBIUS, who writes about his hip-hop adventures in Israel on the ORTHODOX ANARCHIST (and also runs the super group blog JEWSCHOOL), and ISA who documents her incredible vegan cooking show/cookbook writing shenanigans over at the POST PUNK KITCHEN. Rock on with yer bits and bytes!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

04.17.05 DocAviv: But I Just Got Here!

My last few days in Israel were so awesome--just in time to make me really sad to leave. When I departed after the initial shooting trip, I knew that I would eventually be coming back to Israel to screen Jericho's Echo, but this time I was just being reminded of how much I care about so many of the people in the film when I had to pack up and leave...and I really don't know when or if I will ever see some of them again. I left with a heavy heart, but also with the feeling that I am lucky to have made my first feature about such a generally cool group of people, and that I definitely want to keep making movies!

In a blur of interviews, meetings, and goodbyes a few things stand out. People have been asking about these mysterious "meetings" but there is not much to report yet. I basically made it my business to get copies of the movie into the hands of people from almost every major TV network in Israel in the hopes that it will get picked up for Israeli broadcasting, so I will keep you posted on that. I also talked to some cool guys (Harry and Jeremy) involved in promoting alternative views of Israel in worldwide media, about how we could scratch each other's backs. Some interesting possibilities there.

The good stuff, as always, is the band stuff, and I got plenty of that in my last couple days. I was running around trying to interview as many of the original "characters" from the movie as I could before leaving the country, and although I didn't hit *everybody* there will be plenty of great material for the "Updates" section of the DVD. On the second-to-last night the theme was Dizengoff street punks as I did the follow-ups with Lital, Dennis and Tom from Smash4$ and Assi and Ori from Chaos Rabak. I was a bit intimidated to meet Lital, as she seems like such a tough girl in the movie (After all, she is the one that admits,"I like to fight once in a while."). However, just like everyone else, she was super nice and seeing her snuggle with her little kitten and her live-in boyfriend Amos (the same one she is seen with in a few b-roll shots in the movie) broke down any potential misconceptions. She is now 19-years-old and she and Amos are talking about marriage. He even has a tattoo picturing two skulls with mohawks and the word "FOREVER." The two skulls, of course, represent himself and Lital. Romance, punk style.

(Lital and Amos)

After Lital, I went over to Dennis and Tom's to finally do their interview. I say "finally" because although I saw them more than pretty much anyone else, we didn't do their interview until my second-to-last night in town. This was partly because I knew I would see them so there was no rush to do it but also because the interviews all felt kind of final and I didn't really want to admit that I'd have to say goodbye to them. When I spoke above about the people I was sad to say goodbye to, these guys are definitely at the top of the list. The interview was really funny. In fact, a lot of the follow-up interviews have been funny. A lot of the punks said to me that the movie was "too serious," and that although they do plenty of it in the movie, they don't really discuss politics in their every day lives. I think Dennis and Tom especially were trying to make up for the seriousness of the movie by being hilarious in their follow-up interview. They even had Kafel, the Smash4$ bass player, turn the camera on me for some questions, mostly involving whether or not I thought they could get laid if their band came to the U.S. I'm a lot more comfortable *behind* the camera but I think they wanted to give me a taste of my own medicine!

Next in line was Ori, from Chaos Rabak. He is the one whose mohawk silhouette is pictured on the website and t-shirts of the movie. He works the nightshift alone at the "Shakespree," conveniently located between Lital and Smash4$'s apartments and right around the corner from Avital's where I was staying. The Shakespree is a venerable institution known for smashing a variety of tasty toppings into frozen yogurt and shakes and serving it up in a big plastic cup. The Shakespree stands are open all night long and I can't even imagine the amount of money they've lost for all of the free shakes given to the punk rockers of the Sheinkin/Hamelech George area. It turns out that for Ori, not much has changed since the movie was shot. Chaos Rabak broke up and he is now in a new band with the lovely title "The Testicles." It was another funny interview, anyway, and I hope it turns out allright depsite the loud hum of all the machines involved in making the perfect milkshake. While I was there, Assi from Chaos Rabak (the one with the religious brother) showed up and so I interviewed him as well. As I mentioned in one of the earlier posts, he is taking an audio engineering course. He is a really smart guy and I think he has more potential than almost any of the street punks to make a good future for himself.

Later that night (technically early the following morning) I said goodnight to Dennis and went out with Tom and his cool new girlfriend Markiela (sp?) to a bar that plays electroclash music. Shmida and Amit from HaPussy shel Lussy and Yonantan Gatt from Punkache were all there on their own accord...it really is a small country. Slept for a few hours and then met up with an Israeli producer who is willing to help me with some negotiations with TV stations. He had just returned from the MIP film market in France that morning and was also operating on only a few hours sleep, so I think it went well!

After trying all week, I finally managed to arrange a meeting and hummus eating extravaganza with the infamous Gutzy (the kid sitting in the grass in the film, who has also acted as a production assistant for the past year). We combined his intervew with Nadav, Yotam from Useless ID's little brother. Both of them have grown up a lot since I was here last. Nadav is looking so much like the Yotam I first met when Useless ID came to the states 7 or 8 years ago. Bravo, genetics! We did the interview in the men's bathroom of some seemingly abandoned building near the Patiphone. It was funny and looked very punk rock. Nadav is 17 now and Gutzy is 20. Gutzy did not end up joining the military, and he is still playing in bands and running the Israeli punk website gutzy.com. He is also an incredibly talented graphic designer and I hope he gets off of his punk ass and does something worthwhile with has mad skills one of these days. He did not end up joining the army, by the way. He *did* go on tour in Europe as the fill-in guitarist for the female hardcore band Va'adat Kishut though. The interviews were great because Gutzy is pretty aware of everything that goes on in the scene, so he was able to update me on almost every band and person from the movie. This will be a handy overview for the DVD. After the interview, we went on a mad hunt all over Tel Aviv for a dish of hummus. The first two places we went to were closed for Shabbat--oh yeah, another reminder of the whole "Jewish country" thing (See previous post)--and we finally found some that was good enough to leave me farting for the rest of the night. (Sorry, mom!)

(Me, Gutzy and Hummus)

The last interview I did before leaving was another combo of people from different bands. This seemed really appropriate because it's a reminder of what a small scene it is and that, despite different political leanings, most people are essentially friends with each other. This time it was Ron from Soon In Here (the guy who says that the scene has grown a lot since his band has been together) and Yaniv from Nikmat Olalim (the young political hardcore band). Once again I was reminded of what an all-around nice group of people the Israeli punks are, no matter where they fall in the wide spectrum of music styles and political beliefs. Soon in Here recently broke up, but both Soon in Here and Nikmat Olalim had toured Europe since we shot the original footage. I think that going abroad changed or enhanced both of their perspectives on Israel. Both of the guys are originally from Kfar Saba (20 mins. North of Tel Aviv) and are now working on setting up a D.I.Y. venue/youth center in their hometown. Between Giora's venue in south Tel Aviv, HaPussy's Pitch Studios, the Tel Aviv squat protests, and talk of this Kfar Saba venue, it was exciting to see how active the Israeli scene has become in creating its own system of venues and spaces since we originally shot the film.

My trip closed appropriately with a show at the Patiphone, where I got to see Gutzy and Nadav's new hardcore band, Hikokiri, and some of the set of a band called "Brutal Polka." I also got to say goodbye to my new friend Michi, along with Gutzy, Becker, Corey, Nadav, Ron, Yaniv, and of course Dennis. A nice roundup of the past few days of activity. I then went off to spend a last couple of precious hours with the Amazing Avital, to whom I owe this entire project. I couldn't have done it without you, girl.

I don't know if anyone from the bands are going to read this blog, but if so I must say a HUGE THANKS to all of you for your kindness and generosity and for being SO FUCKING COOL and I hope that even if you don't completely understand my intentions right now, you will one day be as proud to have been a part of Jericho's Echo as I am to have made it. TODAH RABAH to all of you MOTEKS!!›

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

04.13.05 DocAviv: Hope

In an earlier post I mentioned how crazy it is to be reminded every so often here in Israel that it actually *is* a warzone. On the flipside, there are also those little things here that remind you that Judaism is an undeniable part of modern Israeli culture, and for me that can be a good reminder. Earlier tonight I flipped on the TV while waiting for yet another band who flaked on an interview (I am having flashbacks to 2003) and a very funny ad came on. There's a group of shady, Italian-looking gangsters on a city street and one of them gets a phone call. The others are up in arms and ready to pounce, but he calms them down, saying something like,"It's Moshe, from the kibbutz. He says 'Chag Sameach.' " (Chag Sameach=Happy Holidays, referring to the upcoming Passover festivities.) For me, this was absolutely amazing--such a mix of absolutely mainstream popular culture and references to a Jewish holiday. An ad like that would never, ever air in the States. This ain't no Adam Sandler's "Chanukah Song." Now, the discussion of whether or not the commercialization of spirituality is a good thing is another story but still, coming from a country where STATUS=BEING ON TV and Jews are such a tiny minority, I couldn't help finding this little episode kind of cool. In the States, there are plenty of people who have never even met a Jew, and here everyone knows what Passover is, regardless of whether or not they actually observe the holiday.

(Retribution with Ashi from heavymetal.co.il at the DocAviv screening)

On that note, I did the follow-up interview with the proudly Jewish band Retribution earlier tonight (who, by the way, are total hessians--as evidenced by their new bass player wearing a cut-off sleeved Pantera shirt with a huge pot leaf on it). I went to their rehearsal and got to hear how they've re-worked some of their songs since their original filming. Apparently, they have taken a long break while re-arranging members and now are back on the scene. So the interview got around to the current political situation and there was an interesting debate among the band. I said that it seemed more hopeful now than 2 years ago, and the first response was that hope is impossible in Israel because every time you get hopeful, those hopes are crushed. Another band member disagreed. "Since the beginning of time," the robust metalhead explained,"where there have been Jews, there has been hope."

04.13.05 DocAviv: Ayfo Atem Achshav?

There is much to report as always from the past couple of action packed days--business meetings, film festival shenanigans, and of course late night drinking (AKA the national pasttime of the Israeli punk).

Above and beyond all of these activites are the bands--that's the important stuff. I've gotten a couple of really positive comments from some of them since that initial release of criticism. Also, even the bands who did the most complaining all admitted that they had fun at the screening and it was cool to see themselves and all of their friends on screen. Someone called the event "a punk rock reunion." So I'm definitely feeling better. Tsahi from Retribution (the right-wing band) wrote me a nice email, excerpted here:

"Don't mind what people told you we all thought that the movie was great and we are very proud about the way you described our small scene, you made us look great, justthat some people got to say somthing or they will feel less important."

It was a very sweet gesture, but I also found it funny because those words would just add to the list of offenses by him and his band against the "left-wingers". Good thing Retribution are big guys.

Shmida from Hapussy explained that though the film might not be as interesting for the Israeli punks themselves, he was trying to watch it from the perspective of an American or British person who "thinks if they step off the plane in Israel all they will see is camels." He could see the value of the film for that audience, who is, after all, the intended one. The past couple days have also re-affirmed the notion that every comment on the movie has to be taken with a grain of salt, as people interpret it in their own ways depending on their own biases, etc. One example--someone at the first screening complained that I showed too many "touristy" areas of Tel Aviv, and last night Roy from Punkache suggested I showed too many slums. So, what can you do excpet (as I said in an earlier post) to trust your own instincts?

Anyway, one of my main tasks whil I am in town is to do follow-up interviews with as many bands from the movie as possible while I am in town. Since I originally shot almost two years ago, much has changed, and everyone always asks me WHERE ARE THEY NOW? After all, two years is a big gap when you're talking between the ages of 18 and 20. So far, I've only shot these interviews with HaPussy shel Lussy (former singer killed in suicide bombing) and Punkache (3 funny guys on couch.) Tonight should be a busy one, as I am scheduled to shoot Retribution, Gutzy, Nikmat Olalim and Lital.

I'll write more detailed updates about everyone later but here's a quickie of the bands so far. HaPussy have opened a recording studio and rehearsal space only for underground bands to use--something almost unprecedented in Tel Aviv. They said that a lot of people have gotten more active in the scene and in building a sustainable community that exists outside of the mainstream. Awesome.

Harpak from Punkache is currently on tour with Useless ID in Australia (!!) and Roy and Gatt are as funny as ever. Roy is done with the army and has already served his reserve service once. He is teaching cinema in high school and doing graphic design--who knew we had so much in common? Gatt has his own apartment where we did the interview and although he quit managing the Patiphone he is working and playing bass in a few local bands.

More soon...

Monday, April 11, 2005

04.10.05 DocAviv: Napping in a Bomb Shelter

After all the time I've spent in Israel, I still get shocked by those small reminders of ongoing war. For instance, at the second night's screening, my view of the film was obstructed by the HUGE rifle on the lap of the teenager sitting in front of me. Avital told me that soldiers are required to carry their weapons with them if they have no place to lock them up at home. I don't think anyone in the theatre even looked twice at this large weapon, but I could not take my eyes off of it.

Meanwhile, earlier that day I took one of the best naps ever in Avital's room. It was good because, despite the ever-present street noise of Tel Aviv, her room was completely dark and quiet--womb-like, even. This seemed like a pretty amazing set-up, until she told me that it is that way because the room doubles as a bomb shelter, as required by Israeli law. Hmmm. It was a little harder to get comfy in there after that bit of knowledge was dropped.

So...let's get back to the screenings. Last you heard, I was feeling pretty bummed out despite the apparent huge success of the opening. Well, I've had a couple days to get some perspective and I'm feeling much better. The second night's screening was very different, in that it was MUCH mellower. It was also sold out (wahoo!) but it was in the smaller theatre. A few of the bands that hadn't seen it the night before came, but not being the political hardcore bands, they were a little more forgiving. My aforementioned friends Dennis and Tom from Smash4$ brought their crew, and I got to see some others for the first time, namely Dafna from Beer7 and Roy and Yonatan Gatt from Punkache (the funny guys on the couch). Dafna is in the army right now, working on the army radio station--a perfect post for her. It was awesome to see the Punkache guys again and I will be meeting up with them later in the week. Now that Roy is out of the Army, he grew his hair all crazily and he looks adorable.

(Me with Dennis, Tom and Kaffel from Smash4$ at Screening # 2. There's Mobuis from Jewschool in the background, too!)

Before the screening, I went to a political hardcore show at a new D.I.Y veue run in part by Giora from Nikmat Olalim (the young, left-wing band). The show was partially sponsored by the group of girls called something like "the Vegan Sisterhood" and it was really cute for me--sort of like looking into a mirror from 10 years ago. It's funny because the people who I have become really friendly with from the movie are mostly *not* from this activist/hardcore scene, and yet this is the scene that I can relate most closely to as far as my own background. They are just so cynical (and young) that it seems they aren't willing to believe that we have anything in common.

Anyway, at the show I got more of a chance to talk with Tal from Nikmat Olalim who was one of the people I was referring to when I mentioned bands that seemed disappointed in the film. It was good because he opened up a bit about what his specific issues were with it and I felt much better. Hopefully he did, too.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

04.09.05 DocAviv: The Morning After...

It was a bit like a one-night-stand when you have a really good time but he/she doesn't call in the morning and you wonder if you did the right thing...

There is so much to report from the past two emotionally-rollercoastery days but I'll skip ahead to what everyone surely wants to know...how were the screenings? And the answer is that I am still figuring out how I feel, but I can list a whole mixture of adjectives--exciting, scary, difficult, fun. I can also say that I am very excited to SLEEP tonight because it's been a couple of looooong days.

(The Tel Aviv Cinematheque has never seen a crowd like *this* before!)

On the surface, the screenings were a huge success. Both nights were completely full, and the fine folks from DocAviv were thrilled. Apparently, it was one of if not *the* best selling film of the festival. Wow. The energy at the first night's screening was amazing. So many of the punks from the movie were there, along with some surprise guests like Shira Ginsburg who I knew from summer camp, haven't seen in 13 or so years, and is now studying to be a chazzanit in Jerusalem; and Dotan Goren, an Israeli who I was with on a tiny island in Greece when the World Trade Center was hit.

There was at least one member from almost every band at the opening night, and it was so fun to hear people react when they or their friends first showed up on the screen...laughing, clapping, shouting. And they didn't stop reacting--left wing bands booed at right wing bands and vice versa. I thought there might be a fight at one point! It was really interesting for me to witness the crowd's reactions also because they were almost completely opposite from the reactions to the film so far in the US--the parts where people in the US are laughing out loud were silent here, and other parts that I never even thought were funny had people rolling on the floor!

(The Cinematheque's lobby after our screening. Hey! There's Lital and Nikmat Olalim's Tal from the movie.)

So it seemed all good--and then came the Q &A. I should have known what to expect. Like they say, "Where there are 2 Jews there are 3 opinions." Add a good dose of Israeli cynicism and you're fucked. It was so different from the generally mild-mannered Q&As in the states. I felt like I was on trial at the Supreme Court--I spent half an hour hearing everything that was wrong with the film. Of course, to put it in perspective, it was mostly the political punks who were commenting, and it is their job to be anti-everything, right?

One thing very sweet that happened was, after the Q&A when loads of people were coming up to me and saying nice things (why do they say the nice things in private and the neagtive things in public?), one of the band member's mothers came to me and said that she enjoyed the movie, and she apologized on behalf of the audience. Her explanation was that it is part of Israeli culture--that even the religious people in the yeshivot
are encouraged to question and argue with the head rabbis. Another post-show highlight was meeting Steve's awesome 13-year-old punk rock-miniature-Ramones cousin and his dad. His dad came up to me and said that he finally understood where his son was coming from. Awesome.

So anyway, the Q&A was uncomfortable but manageable. The thing that really broke my heart was talking to some of the bands afterwards. Don't get me wrong--some of them seemed to like it. But others seemed quite disappointed. I'm sure it's a combination of the film being not exactly what they expected and feeling self-conscious about being on the big screen and the fact that it was shot 2 years ago and a lot has changed since then. But still, the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint them.

In the morning, I felt like shit. I just kept thinking about it and trying to regain trust in mine and Steve and Joseph's original instincts about what to shoot and how to present the scene. I had a great "therapy session" with Avital, who, as a professional musician, was a good authority on how to deal with criticism. She said that if she gives a performance and evryone says wonderful things but *one person* says something negative, it ruins it for her. So she kinda knew how I felt.

Avital deserved this fancy "thank-you" dinner!

I think in the end the kids will be proud to be part of the movie, and when they get a chance to think about it and realize that a documentary is just a slice of life that can't possibly cover everything, and that this film was not intended as a celebration of their scene (although it is that in some ways), but as a tool to show Americans and Europeans another side of Israeli life, they will come around. In the meantime, I told them that they will all get a chance to air their grievances on camera and update us about what has changed in the last 2 years, because I brought my equipment and am going to shoot some material for the DVD.

So I haven't even gotten to the second screening yet and I can't imagine you're still reading this. Furthermore, the beach is calling my name! So get ready for the next installment which is when I tell you how everything turned out OK and I'm feeling much better now.

Friday, April 08, 2005

04.08.05 DocAviv: The Big Night

I am sitting on Avital(my lovely, generous host)'s balcony in my underwear, eatting hummus as only Israelis make it, looking down on Tel Aviv's hipsters flirting by on the street below and out further to the sea that laps up against the city's shore, and I'm thinking,"My life is pretty fucking sweet right now."

I am also remembering why I'm SO BAD at keeping a blog! I just get too caught up in what's going on to stop and write it down. My first couple of days in Tel Aviv have been great. The festival premiere of Jericho's Echo is tonight (eeek!) and I am getting super excited, especially cuz I've already gotten to see some of my favorite people from the bands and of course Avital and Ari (my friends from Boston who both live in TA and have been integral to this project) and so the buzz is going on. It sounds like a lot of cool people are gonna be there.

I'll start with the less-than-good news, which is that the festival people waited until I arrived to tell me that the high-end PAL version of my tape that I spent a lot of $$ making and shipping to them doesn't play properly and they'll have to screen the movie from the DVD. This sucks on a couple levels...first of all, the DVD just won't look nearly as good on the big screen and secondly if I had known about the problem before I came to Israel then I could have done something about it. Oh well, if this is the worst that happens, then I am in pretty good shape.

My first night in town, I went to hang out with Dennis and Tom from Smash4$ (the two guys with mohawks sitting on the bed) and some of the other kids from the street punk scene. Dennis is one of the people I've kept in closest contact with since I was here shooting so I was totally psyched to see him. It was pretty surreal for me because we met up in the park where I orginally shot the interview with Choas Rabak and everyone was sitting on the same wall where we did it. I have been looking at that wall for two years, editing through Chaos Rabak's interview, so it was funny to be back there in "real life." Almost like walking on to a movie set only to discover it's actually your own neighborhood. It all looked pretty much the same--a bunch of kids with colored hair and tattoos, drinking Gold Star outside in the middle of the night.Only they are all wearing more clothes now because it's not summer.

Assi from Chaos Rabak (the guy with the religious brother) was also there which was a nice surprise for me. He told me that Choas Rabak actually broke up after about a 5-year-run and he is taking a course in audio engineering. He wants to do sound for bands and movies and stuff. That's awesome. It didn't seem that anyone else was getting particularly ambitious, though they all have slightly better jobs than when I was here last. Kaban from Chaos Rabak (the guy who went to jail because he wouldn't shave his mohawk) also pulled up on his Vespa eventually. He is now playing in the "Dead Rabins." Sound familar? Perhaps you've heard of the Dead Kennedys! Kaban is as full of life as I remembered. Everyone else is pretty jaded or jaded-acting but this guy just comes tooting up on his little Vespa and laughs the night away.

Yesterday I had a beer with Dennis at the beach and we got to catch up a little more in person. Even though he kicked my butt at air hockey, I really love him. He is truly a mensch with a mohawk. He was telling me about jumping out of airplanes when he was in the army, and now how he has been excused from his reserve service (Israeli men have to serve one month a year until they're around 40.) as he has been classified as a drunk. What a country.

The evening's activities included the opening night of the festival, with filmmaker introductions, wine, and of course--movies! It was kind of an underwhelming opening night to be honest--but my expectations were probably too high. The 2 films were "39 pounds of love" which just got picked up by HBO (lucky bastards!) and "shape of the moon" which was apparently a big hit at sundance and amsterdam. i wasn't in love with either one but it was interesting to see them in juxtaposition, as "39..." has a highly structured--almost contrived--storyline and "shape..." is completely verite with no narration or interviews. it is exciting to see how the documentary format is opening up. Also, I met a cool young filmmaker from Belgium named Stephane whose film I am going to try to catch tonight before mine.

I was so tired by the end of the films, but Avital convinced me to act like an Israeli and stay the hell awake! She reasoned that I am probably going to be up all night for the net two so I might as well get used to it. WHat a clever girl! So I met up with some of the guys from the band HaPussy shel Lussy, who are into the club scene in addition to being pivotal members of the punk scene. This never happens in the states--the two scenes are entirely separate. HaPussy is one of the bands that Steve interviewed so I had not met them in person yet. I hung out with Shmida,Amit and Gofen and they were soooo cool. Their understanding of the punk rock world is much closer to what mine has always been than most of the other punks here. They are all about working together to bring about change and to operate outside "the system." I will definitely hang out with them more while I am in town.

OK, so it's getting close to showtime. WISH ME LUCK!!!!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

04.06.05 DocAviv: I made it

Dear Mom and Dad,
I arrived safely in Israel.
You can get some rest now.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

04.05.05 DocAviv: Damn Amsters!

I was laugh-out-loud happy to arrive in Amsterdam today en route to Tel Aviv. I am now in the airport waiting for the next leg, but let me just say that there is just about nowhere that I'd rather have a 9-hour layover than this beautiful city. And it's not just that they serve hot french fries in paper cones, covered with homemade mayo, in the airport!

Being here, even just for a half-day, brings back so many wonderful memories of my 2001 European travels and definitely bites me with the travel bug again. This is a good thing, since I hope to be travelling a lot with Jericho's Echo in the next year.

The city of Amsterdam itself is just amazing. All I need to say to prove this is that in most cities kids get arrested for skateboarding on public property. Amsterdam, on the other hand, has a GIGANTIC HALF PIPE right smack in the middle of the Museum Square area--one of the most heavily touristed parts of town. I am totally down. But my excitement didn't really come from the city itself--it's that exhilaration you get when you step out onto the sidewalk of a new place and the world seems full of possibility.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

04.02.05 DocAviv: Holy Land, Here I Come... Again

I am soooooo excited. I'll be leaving in a couple days to head back to Israel for the offical festival premiere of Jericho's Echo. Those of you who have been following the film's progress and holding my hand in some way for the past two years (thank you! thank you! thank you!) know that this is like coming full circle for the project. We shot the film in Tel Aviv, and I can think of no better place for its international coming out party than DocAviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Festival.

If you scroll down you'll see that we're also coming full circle with this here blog. It was originally used to document my first shooting trip to Israel, and now it's gonna follow the film on all of its wild travels. I am psyched to look back on it myself and remember, as I am seeing the guys in all the Israeli punk bands anew, what it was like when we first met!
It is going to be so crazy...some of them were only 15 when I shot the film and I have been looking at their 15-year-old faces for 2 years during editing. Suddenly, I'm gonna go back and they will all be 2 years older and have facial hair and shit! There is a big difference between 15 and 17 or 18 and 20--espeically in Israel.

The screenings in Tel Aviv will be the first time any of the bands are seeing the film. I CAN'T WAIT to see their reactions and hear what they have to say about it all. I am just so excited to see them all anyway, and to meet the bands that Steve interviewed for the first time (I interviewed most of the bands myself, but when I sent Steve back to get some more footage for me, he got some really crucial pieces of the puzzle, like HaPussy shel Lussy and Lital) . I feel like I know them so well...but really I only know a 2-year-old snapshot of them, and they have never even met me!

So--thanks for coming along for the ride. It should be AN ADVENTURE!

Pic from the San Francisco Sneak Preview Screening