Sunday, December 17, 2006

12.17.06: Hardcore Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah, Hipsters!

This looks to be one of the best Chanukahs ever...thanks to the Hardcore Hanukkah tour!

(Brooklyn's Golem Makin Chanukah Look Good)

The lead up to the tour was pretty good in and of itself...with the Film Arts holiday party at a pub where my team kicked arse at pub-wide trivia and won ourselves each a whopping $5! That was Wednesday night, and Thursday rocked even harder at the "Vodka Latka" party where punk-klezmer band Golem blew me away (I never knew the accordion could be so foxy!), following a set by Conspiracy of Beards (I kid you not--a men's choir that covers Leonard Cohen tunes), at the great evening put on by some of my favorite Jewish entities: Reboot, JDub Records and the Progressive Jewish Alliance.

But Jewish Subculture Junkies, Listen Up, Cuz You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet! Friday and Saturday were the first two days of the first Hardcore Hanukkah tour, seriously one of the coolest, funnest, rock-the-dreidel events ever! As part of the Workmen's Circle's Hanukkah Tour, we were lucky enough to screen Jericho's Echo clips amidst the Hebrew hijinks of Australia's Yidcore, New Orleans's Zydepunks and the Bay's very own Jewdriver.

What these bands may lack in mainstream appeal, they make up for in originality and Jew-tasticness. We all know that Jews formed the backbone of punk rock in the US (See The Heebie-Jeebies at CBGB's if you don't) but Jewdriver and Yidcore just come out and shout it, albeit in the silliest ways possible. Yidcore dresses up shtetl-fabulous and does fast and furious punk rock Fiddler on the Roof covers, Bette Midler tunes, traditional Jewish songs, and my personal favorite, the Arabic-Hebrew peacenik number, "Od Yavo Shalom." Jewdriver, a spin off on the neo-Nazi skinhead band Skrewdriver, does Jewish pride songs taking the piss out of their fascist counterparts. Sporting kilts, Fred Perry shirts, yarmulkes and pais, they chug Manischewitz and dodge the audience pelting bagels during their sets.

(Bram Yidcore and Ian Jewdriver Lighting the First Candle)

We had planned to have a little Chanukah party at our place after the first night's show at Balazo, but our travelers were far to weary so we ended up with only the lovely Bram, Rory and Myki from Yidcore who we were putting up for the night and somehow we managed to eat 15-persons worth of latkes between the five of us the next morning! What can I say? Growing boys and a Yiddishe Mama are a natural combination. Anyway, we didn't get too much time for sightseeing with our guests, what with their priorities being laundry and shopping for sleeping bags (someone forgot to tell them they might need those on tour--woops!) but we did spend lots of quality time. I think they are my favorites of the gajillions of bands we've hosted over the years, and not just because of those adorable accents. They really are awesome dudes who have more going on than just the band (Myki runs Vice Magazine in Australia and Bram is a law professor and book critic, for example) and I hope we can visit them down under one day.

So the second night's show was at 924 Gilman Street. This legendary place gave rise to so many bands, including most famously Green Day and Operation Ivy. (Did I mention that one of the members of Jewdriver was IN Operation Ivy?!?! Seriously.) As Bram described in his blog about the tour, "924 Gilman Street is the home of the whole independent California punk scene. It is to the West Coast what CBGB's was to the East, except Gilman is a collectively run, non-profit community centre run by kids for kids." I have witnessed a bunch of bands playing their first show at Gilman, including one of Seth's old bands, Breaker Breaker, and it is always really exciting to feel their energy in a house of legends. I guess it's sort of like a Catholic praying at the Vatican, but then, what does a Jew know of such things?

At any rate, it didn't really hit me until the projector started flickering that *I* was now having my 15 minutes to shine at this place. It was really amazing to see a bunch of punks, in the middle of a show, quiet down and gather around to watch some clips of Jericho's Echo. I think some of the guys in the movie would have been really proud...after all, this was sort of like their chance to play at Gilman! Also, I have screened the film at so many festivals in front of a "certain crowd," while the kids at Gilman are really the intended audience. I actually had one skinny little dude in a huge leather jacket come up to me and say that he saw the whole movie in Berkeley last year and has since gone to Israel and hung out with some of the guys in Dizengoff Square. Fucking awesome!!

Oy, I still have more to tell but the last candle just burned out and I seriously have to go to bed. I promise I'll finish this post eventually!!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

11.30.06 Happy Birthday, Film Arts!

I promised I'd write about the Film Arts 30th Anniversary bash from the last post, but next thing you know, I was too full of turkey and stuffing to get anything down on virtual paper...

The gist of it is that the event was a smashing success...and made me feel quite proud to be part of such a venerable institution that has aided so many truly independent filmmakers, in a city where Hollywood renegades come to forge their own paths. (Sorry for the melodrama--just watched Lord of the Rings.)

The theme of the evening was Past, Present, Future and the programming reflected this. Past was represented by OffOn, an experimental short from 1972 by one of the Film Arts founding members. Present gave us the "Best of Film Arts Members One-Minute Films" that I mentioned, of which my little movie "ericka" was one. The one-minute films were fantastic, and spanned genres from comedy to animation to doc to experimental. I had an ongoing battle with my friend Shane King (from the Girls Rock! movie) about whose one-minute film was going to mop the floor with whose...and I have to admit his was pretty awesome, but neither of us won the audience choice award, which was clearly fixed ;)

The Future section presented two works-in-progress. The first was clips from an upcoming documentary--Strange Culture--about the messy world of art and politics and a bizarre government conspiracy to squash artists' rights. One of the producers is the dynamic Lise Swenson, who founded TILT, the organization I am now running. The film just got into Sundance--congratulations!!!

The main feature of the evening was a rough cut screening of a new doc about the bustling Nigerian film scene (Who knew?). This isn't Hollywood, or even Bollywood...This is Nollywood, baby, and it is pure inspiration. For someone who considers herself a guerrilla filmmaker, this really put me in my place. These West Africans churn out hundreds of movies with extremely limited resources and have made themselves a massive homegrown entertainment industry. I think everyone in the audience was impressed and energized by the film. I can't wait to see the final cut!

So I didn't even *get* to the who's who of the guest list, which included such local luminaries as former Film Arts diva Gail Silva, Oscar-nominated doc director Sam Green, film publicist extraordinnaire Karen Larsen and about 800 others, but now that my Thanksgiving has digested, it's already time to grate my latke potatoes. See you on Chanukah!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

11.3.06 Sacto, Film Arts and other updates

Hello, my long lost friends!
My, it *has* been a while. And Lizzie has been busy!

The foremost occupier of my time has been a fabulous new job as the Youth Coordinator at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center, home of Frameline (SF LGBT Film Festival), SF Jewish Film Festival, Center for Asian American Media (Asian American Film Festival) and the venerable Film Arts Foundation. It is at this nexus of the local independent film community that I am running a program called TILT (Teaching Intermedia Literacy Tools), which teaches media literacy through hands-on production. In other words, we do awesome, soup-to-nuts filmmaking workshops with underserved youth all over the Bay Area. Woo-hoo! Youth voice represent!

On that note, A one-minute film that I made about one of TILT's youth filmmakers is screening at the not-to-be-missed film event of the season, the FILM ARTS FOUNDATION 30th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION, next Wednesday at the incredible Castro Theatre. The evening features an eclectic mix of films for film-lovers, and the one-minute films section is an audience choice awards, so if you're in town please come and vote for my lil' movie, "ericka"! It is going to be an outstanding night, and I'll be sure to write about it here. if you can make it, tix are available at

Oh yeah, I almost forgot about the Sacramento screening. This blog is supposed to be chronicling Jericho's Echo adventures, after all. So there have been some incredible screenings recently, in places as varied as Prague, Mexico City and the Turks & Caicos islands. Due to the aforementioned new job, however, I have slowed down on the galavanting around the world a bit. That's one reason it was so nice to have a local-ish screening in California's capitol, Sacramento, last night. The other reason it was so nice is that it was hosted in a new Microcinema that is starting up thanks to the fine folks at Shiny Object Digital Media, who also happen to be the Video-on-Demand (VOD) distributors for Jericho's Echo.

The crowd was funny and a bit surly, but mostly appreciative. The first question was a drunkenly blurted, "Are you single?!", which I ignored, and later I got a brand new one:

Audience member: "I am pen pals with someone in the movie."
Me: "Oh, really? Who?"
Audience member: "His name is Barak."
Me: "Hmmm. I'm not sure there *is* someone named Barak in the movie."
Audience member: "Oh yeah. He's at one of the shows. He hates you."
Me: "Uhhhhhhh, ok?"

I later remembered that the person he was referring to is a disgruntled member of one of the bands who was pissed about not being interviewed (even though I never met him when I was there shooting). He approached me at the Tel Aviv screening, screaming until he was red in the face and demanding a free DVD. I even gave him one! But apparently he's still holding a grudge. Wow.

In other news, I have been writing some more film articles (Look out for my year-end music doc roundup in the winter Death + Taxes and my coverage of Good Vibrations Erotic Films Compeition in the next Release Print!) and teaching a class at FAF for filmmakers called "Building Buzz Around Your Film."

Like I said, Busy Lizzie! I promise not to wait so long til the next entry, and in the meantime, I hope to see you next Wednesday, November 8 at the Castro!!

PS The Henry Rollins article mentioned in my last post is out on the shelves in the current Oct/Nov ish of Death + Taxes!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

07.22.06 My Morning with Henry

A few months back, the up and coming indie music magazine, Death + Taxes, featured a piece about Jericho's Echo. During the interview, I was shooting the breeze with Managing Editor Stephen Blackwell, and I suggested that the new mag add an indie film column to its well-rounded music coverage. "Great idea," he replied, "Why don't you write it?"

So that's how I ended up in Henry Rollins' Hollywood office earlier this month. I know. You're thinking,"Office?! I would expect Henry Rollins to have some sort of lair or batcave where he broods and comes up with elaborate plans to save the world!" Me, too.

In fact, I was downright nervous to meet him, and not just because he was the lead singer of Black Flag, has produced a whole boatload of interesting work in his lifetime, and is best friends with one of my heroes, Ian MacKaye. It was sheer intimidation. After all, one of the most iconic images of Henry features him painted Satan-red and screaming, "LIAR!" straight into a TV camera (in a Rollins Band video ca. 1995).

My fears were squashed the minute Henry answered the door. I had arrived way early in anticipation of LA traffic and made the mistake of walking to get some coffee. Mistake because A) LA is not very pedestrian friendly and B) It was hot as balls. By the time I approached the office, I'm afraid I was a bit of a mess. The first thing he said, kindly, was, "Can I get you a glass of water?" I have to admit that I immediately thought,"Wow! You sound just like Henry Rollins!"

The office was in a modest, residential-style house filled with media--tapes, CDs, videos, plus Henry's desk, a sound editing station and, much to my delight, a single framed photograph of Henry and Ian. A CD of tuvan throat singing greeted me along with Henry's water-offer, so we started with that and didn't have a lull in conversation for the next 2 hours.

Henry was charming and entertaining and not any less intense than I expected. I mostly aimed to focus on movies, due to the nature of my column and the fact that he currently hosts a show on the Independent Film Channel. We covered a lot more ground than that, though...from the "War on Terror" to what its like to present at an award show to what a twisted city Los Angeles is to how he'd rather read quality literature than eat. I even got a show-and-tell session that included such gems as listening to a voice message from Iggy Pop ("Hey Henry, this is James Osterburg..."), and previewing the incredible jazzy-spoken-word-collaboration between Henry and the one and only WIlliam Shattner (of Star Trek fame).

I really wanted to give Henry a hug at the end but I settled for the above photograph. He was even kind enough to let us try it again when my face got cut off in this one, but the next one came out even weirder. After the interview, he was off with the director of his latest film to check out Clerks2 since he was going to interview director Kevin Smith for his show, and later that night he was introducing a new Ramones movie to the group assembling to watch it in a Hollywood graveyard. Ah, the life of a punk rock media mogul.

Thanks, Henry, for a lovely morning. The rest of you can read Henry's insights into the movie biz in Death + Taxes issue no. 3, due out this fall.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

What John Cusak Movie Are You?

OK, so I never post these online quizzes, but since I am still recovering from the Germany trip, I wanted to at least say Hello to you all...and hey, it's movie related!

I just took this quiz this morning and found it amazingly accurate (unlike the "FInd Your Inner Rock Star" quiz which assured me I was Britney Spears!!). I saw High Fidelity and CRIED, even though it was sposed to be a comedy...guess it hit a little too close to home.

So what's yours?

Your Life is Like

High Fidelity

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

04.25.06 Germany: It’s a Wrap

After four flights in two days, I descended through the clouds back into drizzly San Francisco. I’ve now had a little over a week to catch up on sleep and reflect upon the incredible set of experiences that made up Jericho’s Echo’s first European tour.

The last few screenings whizzed by in a blur. We had my record-setting longest Q & A (a full hour!) in Trier, and met excellent people in Aachen, where we also had the first ever forcibly removed audience member—a drunk punk shouting in slurred Polish. Overall, there are so many things that unexpectedly astounded me about the trip, even on top of the fact that little old me made a movie that people living 6,000 miles away from me came by the hundreds to see.

The first and most wonderfully surprising thing is the friendship that developed between Johannes and me. You can read a few entries back how anxious I was about spending 24/7 in a car for over 2 weeks with a total stranger who gave the impression of stereotypical German frigidness. Continue reading, however, and you can see that within a few days together, we were inseparable not by circumstance, but by choice.

(My friend Johannes)

Aside from all of our meaningful cultural exchanges (For example, did you know that Scrooge McDuck is called, “Uncle Duckleburg” in Germany?), Johannes was an excellent cultural interpreter for some of our weirder moments. We spent a lot of our time laughing, and in more serious, business-related, or just plain exhausting tour circumstances, we gave each other the necessary support and space. In short, a perfect tour relationship.

As each screening actually had a guarantee, I thought I might make a profit on this tour for once, but I never expected that the biggest gain would be a lifelong friend.

The other main point of interest for me was the curious relationship that Germans have with Israel. I felt like I was really doing something important by bringing the somewhat controversial issues in the film to the forefront for discussion among Germans, because Israeli/Palestinian issues touch a much closer nerve in German society than I expected.

I already mentioned in the Nuremburg entry the surprising (to me) split among the German left regarding Mideast politics. In the U.S., speaking from personal experience, I’ve found that one is considered somewhat of a pariah if they practice left-wing politics and still support Israel. In Germany, it seemed to be the most radical left who were most supportive of Israel. I had folks showing up at screenings in full anarchist regalia—head-to-toe black, dreadlocks, etc, with the addition of a button or baseball cap proclaiming, “Israel: We love you.” What?!

I don’t think I am the one to make it, but a documentary could definitely be fashioned about the complex, contemporary German-Jewish-Israeli dynamic.

Now that I am back and dealing with reality again, the next big step is to get the Jericho’s Echo DVD into stores and video shops and thereby into people’s personal DVD collections…publicity, publicity, publicity…ah, the fun never ends!

Friday, April 21, 2006

4.11.06 Germany: Munster

Things lightened up considerably after Weimar. The drive to Munster was one of our longest, but I think we were both happy to put the experiences of the previous day far behind us.

The screening was at an upscale arthouse cinema (cleverly named "Cinema Munster") and we had a 50+ person crowd. Johannes and I remarked at what a wide variety of venues we've screened in on this tour...everything from broken down squats to fancy art cinemas to music festivals and concert venues. How wierd! Somehow we've managed to get by in all of these different environments.

The guys who put on the show were really cool--Muscha and Carsten (one of those tall, blonde, attractive guys who tries to make himself into a nerd by wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses), from Green Hell Records. Green Hell is one of the largest indie music distributors in Europe and Johannes was saying there must be something in the water in Munster because it is the hub of so much German punk activity.

Carsten also worked for one of the best known venues in town, the Gleis22, so we headed over there after the screening to catch the end Swedish pop outfit "The Shout Out Louds" set. It's awesome to have made a movie that pairs up so nicely with live music, because we've screened prior to so many band performances. At the festival in Bregenz, we got to see Irrlicht, the Austrian punk band with occasional tuba interjections and a wild Cologne-based screamo band, Das Krill. I already mentioned Dog Soldier, the Portland punkers who followed us in Neuebrandenburg. And lest I forget the energetic Berlin/Montreal funkpunk duo The King Khan & BBQ Show who played at our Solingen venue or the female-fronted, Polish, hardcore-with-violins band who played after us in Weimar. It kind of encourages me to make another music doc.

(Irrlicht at the Never Conform Festival)

We got a chance to see some of the city in the morning. It seemed to be the bicycle capital of Germany, with two-wheeled vehicles piled up outside every door, and despite the fact that I was devastated to discover there is actually no such thing as Munster cheese, I really enjoyed the time we spent there before heading off to the final leg of the tour. As we explored the old city together arm in arm, it dawned on me what an amazing friend Johannes had become, and how much I was going to miss him when I returned to the US.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

04.10.06 Germany: Weimar

Weimar was totally intense. I never got quite comfortable in the town where Hitler came to power; in the town that sits in the shadow of the notoriously murderous Buchenwald concentration camp.

We drove in via clean, cobblestoned streets and pleasantly pastel townhouse facades, when we were suddenly assaulted by a huge eyesore--a dirty, brown, broken-windowed ramshackle of a place, covered with graffiti. Ah, this must be our stop. Check the tourbook. Yup, this is where we screen tonight.

Despite my initial skepticism, I came to have a lot of respect for the Gerberstrasse youth center, especially noting how badly its neighbors wanted to get rid of it. Especially noting how it seemed to be the only place in town that wasn't tidily sweeping the city's ugly past under the carpet. Especially because the building stood as a giant,"Fuck You" to the former Gestapo headquarters across the street.

(The Gerberstrasse)

The wierdest part about Weimar is that, save for a few words in my Lonely Planet book, I would hardly have known about all the skeletons in its closet. There were no indications at all that "This is the building where the town's Jews were rounded up" or "This tower was built by Hitler himself" or "This is the hotel where Hitler was given a master suite, and a balcony was built so he could address his adoring fans in the plaza below." Thank goodness for Pierre from the Gerberstrasse, who took us on an "alternative city tour" and shed some light on these painful truths. He also showed us Neo-Nazi rally points and a formerly Jewish-owned shop which is now home to a line of insidiously disguised Neo-nazi propoganda sportswear. I'm not kidding.

(Pierre from the Gerberstrasse)

Pierre is sort of like an anarchist Santa Claus--a jolly, big belly presides over his combat boots and his head is topped with an eclectic mix of dreadlocks, bald spots, and shaved parts. Pierre is sort of the patriarch of Gerberstrasse, and he invited us there to help prepare his ragtag, leftist group of misfit Israel supporters for their upcoming trip to the Holy Land. Interestingly, Pierre led one such group before, with a punk band from Romania, and they put on the first ever hardcore show in the Palestinian territories, at a Christian youth center in Beit Jala.

After two hours of Pierre's tour, I was completely creeped out, and emotionally and physically exhausted. I really wanted to explain to Johannes how i was feeling, but I couldn't quite make out the words. He seemed completely understanding anyway, G-d love him. Fortunately, some comic relief came at the end of the tour, when Pierre showed us the garden where famous Weimarian Goethe did much of his writing. In attempting to describe Goethe's amorous ways, Pierre explained, "Goethe was a big fucker." Now, there's a t-shirt.

Not too surprisingly, our screening was a disorganized mess. Johannes attempted his lecture, but we didn't even have a post-film discussion or set up our merchandise. It was probably all for the best since we were both so tired. We stayed in the squatted building adjacent to the Gerberstrasse. I was still feeling pretty freaked out and matters weren't helped when I realized that I would be sleeping in the big, dormitory style room reserved for bands all by myself. I timidly tucked into my bottom bunk and read the graffiti on the wall: "Va'adat Kishut Tour Summer 2004." Seeing that someone from one of the bands from the movie had apparently slept in this very same bed, my heart swelled. I realized that I really wasn't alone in that room after all.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

4.09.06 Germany: Solingen and Braunschweig

Nothing of particular note happened at the screenings in Solingen and Braunschweig--small cities, small crowds, nice people. It was inspiring to note in both towns, however, the motivation of small groups of people to make things happen. I have found this all over Germany, like with the communally run youth centers, and I've definitely been impressed with the results.

In Solingen, for example, our screening was put on by a group of about 20 people (the "cow club"), who work together to put on regular independent concerts and events. In the US, promoters are usually only very small groups of 2 or 3, or even one individual, so it was interesting to see how a bigger group shares the burden and gets a lot accomplished. (On a side note, one of the first things someone told me in Solingen was that the town is famous for its' knives. Nobody except for Johannes thought it was funny when I replied that, well then, I better not piss anyone off. I can't tell you how many times I've thanked my lucky stars that I am on tour with someone whose sense of humor is as stupid as mine!)

Even more impressive than the group in Solingen was the club--Nexus--where we screened in Braunschweig. This large club, which included a bar, performance space, band rehearsal rooms and more, was literally built from the ground up over 4 years by the group of people running it now, all of whom have thus far made no profit from the venture. Our host and promoter, Timo from Riptide Recods, (who had the cleanest bachelor pad I've ever seen despite having already hosted 2 bands that week), explained the plans to develop the club even further, and also turned me on to some really cool bands like Boy Omega.

(The "willich" of Johannes's youth)

On the way between Solingen and Braunschweig, we took a countryside detour to the tiny village--and I do mean village--where J's family moved after they left East Germany when he was a kid. It was nice to meet his younger brother and catch a glimpse into his red brick, pitched roof, open green-pastured past.

A couple of J's really, really nice friends came to the Braunschweig screening and I mentioned to one of them (who interviewed me for that we were headed to Weimar next. He got surprisingly emotional and explained that he grew up in that area, and had really mixed feelings about it since he knew that his grandmother had been standing there proudly heiling to Hitler in her younger days. So, after a couple of relatively uneventful days, we headed to Weimar, which was to be one of the most impactful days of the tour for me.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

04.07.06 Germany: Hamburg

I've been thinking about doing a documentary on indepenent cinemas and the crazy characters who run them, and Carsten from the Lichtmess Kino in Hamburg is a fantastic candidate. An experimental filmmaker himself who collects projections of color-check girls from the leaders of 35mm prints, Carsten is hte former bassist of a hugely popular, older German punk band whose name translates roughly to "Flowers at the ass of hell." When his spiky, blonde-tipped head greeted us with raspy and abundant laughter, we knew we were in for a good night.

Carsten works full time in a mainstream cinema and is part of a small group who rents and promotes the Lichtmess Kino every Thursday for independent film sreenings. The Kino itself is a really interesting space, inside an old soap factory and plastered with beautiful old movie posters from floor to extra tall ceilings.

(Some of our crowd at the Lichtmess Kino)

We had another sold out screening! Well over 100 were inside--leaving stnading room only--and more were turned away at the door. I was already getting a bit nervous due to the size of the crowd, and my anxiety heightened when people in the back started chatting and snickering during J's lecture. To make matteres worse, the speech was running a bit long, and I was expecting a call from the US (an interview from Venus Magazine-yay!) on the phone that was located in J's pocket! By the time the screening ended, I was a nervous wreck, and it didn't help that, though most of the crowd (at least 100), stayed for the post-film discussion, they were absolutely silent. A sea of expectant faces, but not a question among them! Fortunately, J and I have our schtick down by now and we were able to warm them up some.

It was an appropriate night to have my first stiff drink of the tour (J has been giving me a pactical tutorial on the wonders of German non-alcoholic beers). Before heading home, we went to the bar that also resided inside the soap-factory complex, and Carsten treated me to a shot of Malteeser (sp?)--a local specialty liquor made from caraway seeds that tasted vaguely like a liquid dinner roll.

Harald, our host and promoter, took us on a midnight stroll home via Hamburg's port, one of the largest in Europe. I always like port towns best because of the energy and vitality that comes from exposure to new things, and Hamburg was no exception. J and I got a chance to do some exploring in the morning, and I really loved the feel of the city--lots of cool-looking people, diversity, independent business and a friendly vibe. It was the first city so far that I could see myself actually living in.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

04.06.06 Germany: Neubrandenburg

Neubrandenburg was about as different from Berlin as you could get in one country. Only two hours drive from the urban, educated, sophisticated West German cultural mecca of Berlin was the tiny, rural, largely unemployed East German village of Neubrandenburg. I was amazed at the snobbery that still exists toward East Germany among West Germans. One guy at the Berlin screening asked, "Why would you GO to such a place?", and went so far as comparing a Berliner visiting Neubrandenburg to an Israeli visiting the West Bank. When I explained to another "Westerner" that the Neubrandenburg show was the only place so far where J had to do German translation for me, they snidely remarked, "Well is IS East Germany." Of course, all of this talk made me determined to have an excellent screening there.

The show was in another one of those alternative youth centers, this one in such a remote wooded location that I didn't think the "road" leading to it was actually meant for cars. I must admit that I--who created this movie in part to break stereotypes about punks--was filled with hesitation when we walked in and saw a group of spiked, studded, leather-clad guys hanging around. Oh, great. They're just here for the beer and they aren't going to give a shit about the movie. Funny thing was, the whole gang was actually a band from Portland, Oregon called Dog Soldier who are also touring Germany and were booked to play right after the movie!

The screening itself was nice but uneventful--about 30 peeps--but I had some interesting conversations about the local economic situation and political issues with the show's organizers Frank and Ulli.

We stayed at Frank's parents' place which was even more remote than the youth center--so much so that our navigation system basically said, "Fuck off!" and went to sleep. We've had a few unusual sleeping situations so far, but this was probably the topper. Frank's folks had reently joined a spiritual cult in India and dramatically altered their lifestyle. I slept in a basicaly empty room containing only a bowl of water in the corner, a bookshelf holding myriad esoteric objects and a sign that read something to the effect of, "Please do not touch any of the objects on this shelf. I am using them to heal people's bad diseases, and if you touch them the bad diseases may transfer to you."

Apparently, his parents make a pilgrimmage to their guru in India once or twice a year, each time returning with new household rules imposed by their spritual leader. Since their last trip, use of the first floor bathroom and sliding door to the garden are forbidden. Frank was a ovely guy and it was hard to imagine what it must have been like for him when his "normal" parents got involved in such business only three years ago.

04.04.06 Germany: Berlin

The Berlin shows were amazing--definitely our best yet.

We arrived at the Eiszeit Kino amidst a wild hail storm, the likes of which I've never seen. We had planned to arrive early so Johannes could give me a little walking tour of the city, but I was so cold that I barely remember anything we saw, except for a beautiful synagogue which is one of the few to have been rebuilt among the almost 2,000 destroyed during WWII.

Man, I was really unprepared for the "spring" weather here in Germany,and I am so glad that I decided at the very last minute to throw one big sweater into my luggage.

The cinema ("kino") was located in the Kreuzberg section of Berlin, a hipster area which felt a lot like the Mission in San Francisco. It was nice to be at a proper cinema again. When the Kino opened, we learned that the screening had been written up in at least 3 major entertainment sections in town, and 40 tickets had already been pre-sold. Eiszeit Kino was a really cool place, and the manager Suzann did a wonderful job with PR: I highly recommend this venue to touring filmmakers!

So we waited and people started pouring in, including our Berlin promoter Dietmar, our amazing booking agent Ralf, and Johannes's Dad and sister. So may people showed up, in fact, that it became our first sold out screening (!) and Suzann decided to do a second screening at 11 PM that evening.

In the end, 99 people saw the movie that night and asked lots of questions, especially about the right wing band Retribution. (People here have been obsessed with them--we've gotten questions about them every night. I've been thinking a lot about why that is.) Our most esteemed audience member was Avi, an Israeli expat who sang for the band Mem-Nun back in the day. In J's zine, he interviews Federico from the band Dir Yassin, which was a great influence on the political bands in Israel today. In the interview, Federico names Mem-Nun as one of his great influences, so after the screening Avi said,"If Federico is the grandfather of the scene, I am the Neanderthal."

(The Jewish Museum in Berlin)

We of course didn't get to spend as much time in Berlin as I would have liked, but other highlights included our breakfast with Dietmar, who told us all kinds of crazy stories about his many years of promoting shows in Berlin, such as taking Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys to a local flea market where he dropped $500 on records. We also visited the incredibly well-designed Jewish Museum in Berlin, which was a strange and somewhat painful experience for me, despite its inspiring architecture. The subtitle of the museum is something like, "2,000 years of German-Jewish History" but it seemed a bit more to me like,"2,000 years of Jewish survival in Germany despite almost constant humiliation, discrimination, and murder." However, I could see how that name might not work out so well for the institution's public relations materials.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

04.04.06 Germany: Dresden

Last night was one of our most prestigious screenings in New York at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. It's the first big screening where I have not been present, but fortunately Steve Lerner was there to represent, along with my best girl Heather, who was planted in the audience for strategic question-asking. ("Are there DVDs available online?")

Obviously, I couldn't make it because I had my own screening to attend here in Dresden, where the contrast between East and West Germany is striking. Unlike in Munich and Nurnberg, many things here, expecially in the "New City" are dilapidated, outdated and covered with grafitti. There are many buildings that still have the uninviting, utilitarian feel of the Socialist era. In a way it kind of makes sense that this city has the most vibrant alternative youth culture of any we have visited so far.

The grayness of our surroundings is not helped by the rainy, gray skies here. Poor ol' Dresden was very hard hit in the European floods a few years back, and we arrived to encounter the results of a brand new flood just this past week. The newer part of the city is not as affected and we were able to have our screening here, but at the bridge over the Elbe River, only the tops of trees and bus stop signs were peeking out of the water.

The screening itself was small and relatively uneventful. The interesting part is the venue itself, which is another collectively-run leftist youth center like the one in Bregenz. Apparently, these centers are all over Germany and Austria, and they are pretty amazing resources with gig venues, kitchens, sleeping quarters, computers and libraries or info-centers containing political literature. This one even has a kindergartern for the young parents who helped found the center. It's the "Punk Rock Academy" that Atom and his Package always dreamed about!

We found out that at least 2 bands from the movie played here on their respective European tours (Va'adat Kishut and Soon in Here) and that made it all the more special to screen the movie at this venue. Today, we are off to Berlin and I am really excited, as I have only heard good things about this cultural capital.

Monday, April 03, 2006

04.02.06 Germany: Nuremburg

I have to admit that I was a little creeped out upon entering N├╝rnberg (Nuremburg), a city so closely associated with Nazi history. I certainly didn't expect the outcome of the evening, which proved to be our best screening yet.

We arrived early (for once) and took a self-guided walking tour of the beautiful old city. It was the first time since I've been here that I really felt the presence of WWII. I had read that the city was basically destroyed by Allied bombings, and then painstakingly rebuilt using many of the original stones and building materials. It was chilling to walk among these hallowed churches and castles and imagine what it must have been like as the sky rained with bombs little more than half a century ago.

The screening was held in part of a cultural centre which has hosted many great bands. It was fun to go in the back room and check out all the posters and realize that we were doing our screening in the same venue where so many bands we like had played before.

We had no idea before we arrived that the screening was actually part of a two day art & culture program focusing on Israeli/Palestinean issues. The organizers, including our excellent host Tobias, put together a whole spiral bound packet of information about Israeli history and the other artists and an interview with me that had appeared in a German magazine. The 2-day event resulted in a great, diverse crowd of at least 50 people for the screeening. It included a range of people from young punk types to older, left-wing intellectuals. Having such an educated crowd was a real pleasure for us, as both the lecture and the movie were very well received and for the first time the Q & A session was really interactive. Not to mention the fact that, this is the first crowd who broke the stereotype of "serious" Germans, and actually laughed at the funny parts!

One of the most interesting parts of the tour for me so far has been learning about the positions of the German left toward Israel. There was much discussion of this at the Nuremburg screening. It seems like, unlike in the US where left-wing politics are synonymous with the "Free Palestine" mantra, the German left is very split on the issue. One side calls themselves the "Anti-Deutsche" or Anti-Germans, and they are in full support of Israel and all of its policies, claiming that anti-semitism and nationalism are still close beneath the surface in Germany and therefore criticism of the Jewish state is a reflection of that fact. Although they are all on the left side of the spectrum, these "Anti-Deutsche" are in opposition to the other left-wingers who compare Israel and its policies to a fascist state.

03.02.06 Germany: St. Johann & Bregenz

The last two shows could not have been more different from each other. The first was in a remote mountain village, inside a beautifully old tannery ("Alte Gerberei")converted into an avante garde cultural performance space. We screened in front of an austere audience of about 15 people. The second show was in a lakeside town, inside an activist youth center, where our audience consisted of at least 50 punk rockers--every single one wearing black and piled on top of each other. Most of them had been drinking since noon. What a difference a day makes!

Driving into St. Johann in Tirol, I was quite convinced that the Von Trapp family was going to come frolicking past the car at any moment. The snow-capped Alps were the backdrop for this picturesque town where you could window-shop for liederhosen and an enormous St. Bernard dog guarded the door to our guesthouse. "Window shop" is probably the operative word there, as our host, Hans, at the Alte Gerberei, described the entire set up as "prostituion", and the village itself as an "uncivilzed jungle." The tourist in me found it all rather charming, but the artist in me could see how living there as a modern thinker could be pretty stifling. (Incidentally, this traditional town was the perfect spot for me to delight in my first real "spaetzle," a traditional dish kind of like mac & cheese, but made with little corn dumplings, grilled, and covered with fried onions. Mmmmm!)

(Near our guesthaus in St. Johann)

The oasis in this " jungle" was the Alte Gerberei, and I admire Hans for sticking around to run the place, which is known for its avante garde jazz performances and other cutting edge cultural events.

As I mentioned above, we had a small and extremely quiet audience, which gave J and I a chance to do some great improvising during the question-and-answer period, which was really more of just an answer period. Berhard, another one of our hosts and a lovely man, explained that the crowd's reaction, or non-reaction, was very typical of this conservative area. He said that even when they have had an energaetic hardcore band play, the entire audience stands all the way at the back, leaving a great gulf of empty floorspace between themselves and the band. Still, it was a great screening because i think it is small towns like St. Johann that have the most to gain from exposure to new ideas.

In the morning we headed to Bregenz and the "Never Conform Festival." We had never received full information about this event, and when J called the promoter at 11 AM, he was still sleeping although our requested arrival time was noon. J was joking that it was actually the "Never Confirm Festival." We had a laugh but I think we were both a little uneasy about it, and we weer not terribly surprised when we arrived at the venue, the doors were locked, and bands were waiting outside to be let in.

Turns out we were stranded for a pretty good reason. Everyone was outside at the street party that kicked off the second day of this metal/punk/grindcore festival. We found out that we were to screen the movie outside at this party, projected into the back of a truck. Now that's punk!

At the street party, a sea of black-clad bodies swam among the green grass and idyllic lake-front setting of the park where we were to show the film. There were around 40 or 50 punks hanging out, drinking beer, juggling, playing hackey sack, and listening to the talented, German, underground male-female hip hop duo Chaoze One and Lotta C. ("What's the solution? Revolution!")

Unfortunately, we couldn't screen the movie outside because too much light was coming into the truck, so we just made a plan to screen it inside before the evening's bands played and J and I got a chance to relax, hang out in the sun, and take in the whole crazy scene.

Back at the "Between" youth centre (named ironically for its position between the police station and the security director's offices), J and I were pretty skeptical about our potential audience for the film. People were spread out all over the centre and hanging out outside, and nobody really seemed to be paying any attention to what was going on. So J decided not to give his full lecture and we set up about 10 chairs. We got the movie started and next thing we knew, people were literally piling in. We had to add just about every chair we could find in the center and it was really a pretty amazing sight.

One thing that is unique to the political punks here in Germany is the large number of "Antifaschiste Aktion" tshirts, buttons and patches. Of course, all left wing punks are anti-fascist, but it seems so much more relevant here given the country's 20th century history.

Most people didn't stick around for the questions but it was still an interesting discussion because it was such a punk-savvy crowd, so we got some new ones about the leftist bands, and other punk topics like whether or not there was a squatting scene in israel. Just for good measure, we also had a couple drunk idiots yelling incoherent commentary.

We stuck around the festival for a few hours, saw a couple bands, and i was so tired that I barely even remember getting to the apartment we were staying at. We came back to the youth centre in the morning and I was shocked that the festival's crew was up and moving and cooking and cleaning so bright and early. Turns out they just didn't sleep all night long. Viva la punk!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

3.30.06 Germany: Linz, Austria

Some people backpack. Some people take big group tours. Some people cycle. But let me tell you, next time you're hitting up Europe, going on an independent film and lecture tour is the way to go. It gives you an automatic ticket to some of the coolest venues and most interesting people in town. Take our show in Linz, for example. After crossing the Germany / Austria border to a breathtaking view of the Alps, we arrived at our destination--the Moviemento.

This place is also part of an arts complex, like the Feierwerk in Munich, but it is a bigger version. The cinema is located underneath Linz's modern art museum and J & I were hosted in the rooms reserved for visiting artists. When I say we stayed in the museum, I mean we stayed IN the museum! Stepping outside the door from our hallway led directly into the museum's amazing exhibit featuring a selection of the most cutting edge works from recent European biennial exhibitions. I was almost afraid that someone would pay us an accidental visit, thinking that we were part of the exhibits!

(One of the museum exhibits or last night's leftovers? You decide.)

So the place is cool, but I haven't even gotten to the people! Anatol and Andy, the guys who promoted the show here, have their fingers in so many interesting pots that I can't even begin here but I'll just mention, for example, that Andy builds interacitve robots and sound/light exhbitis for fun and Anatol founded the band Valina which has done 2 US tours and is on its way to Russia later this month.

The screening was a bit unusual because they sort of had to squeeze it in early before the regular movie schedule began, so J did not get to do his lecture and it also led to another small (shall we say, "intimate"?) crowd, but it was a fine group nonetheless. During the screening, we ate at the delectable cafe in the complex, where J ordered something I think only exists in this part of the world: vegan schnitzel!

A highlight of the evening was that the musem was open late and J and I basically had the entire place to ourselves, so we had lots of time to explore the incredible array of inspiring, interactive multimedia pieces.

This adventure keeps getting better and better.

PS You know how they say that you shouldn't drink tap water when traveling abroad because your system isn't used to their system? Well, uhhhh, I've discoverd that it is not just an old wives' tale...well what can I say? Not everything can be perfect!

3.29.06 Germany: Munich

The 5 1/2 hour drive from Kaiserslautern to Munich flew by due to Johannes's good company (not to mention that we saw three-count em-THREE rainbows!). We are finally getting to know each other in person after many months of planning this tour via email, and thnakfully a warm and easy friendship has already developed.

(Johannes leaving Kaiserslautern!)

Johannes is the tour's lecturer, manager, driver and translator. I discovered upon arrival that I am supposed to be the tour's navigator. Uh-oh. (I can hear you laughing, Joshie!) I can't even find my way out of a parking garage! Fortunately, we are in uber- efficient high tech Deutschland and so our car has a GPS tracking system that speaks directions as we drive. Phew!

Yes, they know how to tour in style over here. Whereas in the US bands will tour in a stinky, beat up van which they often sleep in after eating at Jack in the Box, we are tooling all over Europe in a tricked-out Mercedes Benz (!) and given a hot vegetarian meal and housing at every venue. I could get used to this!!

Anyway, back to my friend Johannes. So a lot of us were wondering if this German guy who went all the way to Israel and wrote this zine about the Israeli scene and invited a Nice Jewish Girl from the US to tour was a Jew himself. Turns out that he is actually the Protestant son of a priest whose family has religious origins way back with the French Hugenots. (I am always envious of my foreign friends who actually have some idea what their family was up to 500 years ago). He ended up in Israel almost by accident, as he was sent there to volunteer by the German government in lieu of military service. After fulfilling this requirement, he went back to Israel to study mathematics for a year and now he speaks better Hebrew than I do and is well-versed in Jewish tradition. Who would have guessed?

So--onto the moment you've all been waiting for--news of the first screening! The venue was a really cool "alternative" complex called Feierwerk consisting of performance spaces, a gallery, a bar, etc. Turns out that Useless ID actually played there when they last toured Europe. We were greeted by the super nice guys who worked there, along with an amazing spread of food, and news that the rooms upstairs were too dirty so they had already booked us a hotel room. I thought, "Wow. This is what they mean when they say the arts are more appreciated in Europe."

We brought our own equipment on tour so Johannes was setting up the projector and DVD player when he realized that he left the remote, which enables the German subtitles, back home in Kaiserslautern. Ha ha. We make a good pair! So after a little adventure in electronics shopping we were ready to go.

There was an art opening with a DJ playing in the bar adjoining our screening room, so the "crowd" for the movie was only about 15 people, and we knew two of them. It was actually great because it gave J a chance to practice his lecture in front of a smaller group and for us to get our whole system together. Plus it was nice that on the very first night we each had a friend in the crowd--Holger, who was also volunteering in Israel with J (although Holger CYCLED to Israel from Germany via Greece and Turkey!) and my friend Taki who hosted me on my first trip to Oktoberfest 5 years ago.

Everyone stayed for the Q & A but they were pretty shy about questions. Fortunately, J & I went up together and we kind of played off each other and managed to be pretty entertaining I hope. I guess it worked out because out of 15 people, I sold 6 DVDs and Johannes sold 30 € worth of zines! I was really curious about what the questions and comment would be like here but it turned out that the highlight of my evening came from an American who happened to be visiting a friend in the area. He was from Fayetetvill, Arkansas--a region of the US where my film would probably not dare to tread, and he was totally blown away. He said that he had really never heard anything like this before and had no idea that there was any kind of youth culture in Israel. Pretty amazing how I had to come all the way to Germany to really reach my intended audience--the average American citizen.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

03.28.06 Germany: Arrival

Arrived in Germany safe and sound. Phew. Johannes and his girlfriend are darling. They have an orange toaster and matching bread slicer. Plus lots of books and shoes. My kind of people. We are resting here in Kaiserslautern tonight before our first tour date in Munich tomorrow night. Im soooooooooo sleepy.
More soon...

(Johannes & Adina's kitchen)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

03.21.06 Germany: Auf Wiedersehen, US of A

Ceeee-le-bration time, Come on!

Why am I celebrating, you ask? Well, it's been a year since our amazing sneak-preview premiere at the Victoria last year, and so many wonderful and fabulous adventures have been had with Jericho's Echo in the ensuing months. (Read this very blog to learn more...)

So how am I celebrating? Naturally, with a big, fat trip to Germany. For those of you who don't know me, that "Naturally" was dripping with irony, as Germany is actually one of the last places on earth that I expected to take my Israeli movie with Jewish content. But off to the land of liederhosen I go, on a two week tour with Johannes Dechant and his fanzine about Israeli punk called Katzilla.

I imagine that this trip will definitely be the biggest adventure yet, and probably the last big adventure I have as far as taking JE on the road, as the DVD will be released to retail this August (Yippee!). Johannes and I are taking our "Film und Fanzine" tour to 14 screenings in 14 cities in 14 days. Oy vey.

I am leaving for the tour on Thursday morning and making a brief stop in Florida on the way there for a family event (congrats, Cory and Kristin!). I am getting super anxious about the trip...excited in a *good* way, of course, but also kind of like, "WTF? Am I really going to GERMANY?!" The first time I heard a cop speaking German, in Austria about 8 years ago, I pretty much freaked out. After all, the only images I had ever seen of men in uniform speaking German were images of Nazis.

Logically, I know this is silly. I know that I am not going to get jumped by any Nazis or forced into a labor camp and that, in fact, modern Germans are enlightened, culturally savvy, fairly liberal folks. I've talked to lots of friends about the upcoming trip and they've all reassured me of these things. My friend Matt even pointed out how beautiful and powerful it is that 60 years ago our grandparents were killing each other, and now I, a Nice Jewish Girl, am being brought over there to exhibit a work that deals with a set of issues close to the hearts of Jews around the world.

But, wonderful and well-meaning as he has been, my host Johannes added to the freakout factor the other day when he sent me some interview questions for a German zine he writes for. One of the questions was, "You once wrote, that a big part of the audience in the US is actually jewish. How did they react to the movie?" Yes, folks, ACTUAL Jews! Step right up and for only a shilling you can see them for yourselves, horns and all! I know, I know. That's not what he meant. But it was just a reminder of what a teeny, tiny minority I will be joining when the plane lands. And why.

So--I am about to leave for this trip and I know it will be an incredible experience. It will be great for the Israeli bands to get some promotion in Europe, and for me, I'm sure it will actually be a hell of a lot of punk rock fun and mayhem. I also know that, as illogical as it might be, I will be overcoming a personal hurdle to make it happen.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Top Screening Spots

I have been working on this here fine piece of internet reading material for as long as I have been working on Jericho's Echo. Mostly, I have been doing this to document the making distribution of the film, and to keep my fans posted on these endeavors (Hi, Mom and Dad!). Another main reason, however, is to let other D.I.Y. filmmakers know that they are not alone--and hopefully have them learn from some of my mistakes and successes. It's the guide book that I didn't have.

On that note, now that I am home between tours, I thought I would mention a few of the screening spaces that have been top notch in my experience. You can scroll through the blog to see the original entires from each of my screenings. If you are booking a tour of the US for your movie, *definitely* check these spots out:

Coolidge Corner Theatre Brookline, MA
Just bordering Boston, this refurbished theatre has two big, beautiful screens and a small video screening room. It's in a great neighborhood, nice people work there, and they sell delicious ice cream in the lobby. Plus, my husband and I had our first date there. Awww.

Cornell Cinema at the Willard Straight Theatre Ithaca, NY
Ithaca is beautiful, the lineup of films at this theatre is amazing, and the staff is absolutely curteous, professional, and a pleasure ot work with.

Grand Illusion Cinema
Seattle, WA
The screening room here is tiny, but lovely and intimate. It has an adjoining coffee shop and is run by friendly, film-loving volunteers.

The Capitol Theater Olympia, WA
Also run by friendly volunteers, this place is home to the Olympia Film Soceity. It is a wonderful mix of grand-classical and modern-funky. They also host bands and other cool events.

Castro Theater
San Francisco, CA
The magnificent and palatial Castro is not the same since losing its internationally recognized programmer a couple years back, but it is still one of those places where you begin to understand the phrase, "The Magic of Cinema." Complete with pre-screening organ player.

Victoria Theatre San Francisco, CA
This place holds a special place in my heart, since we had our world premiere here. It is a bit shabbier and mustier than the Castro, but it still recalls the days when movie palaces ruled. It is now a rentable space, and therefore They do not have a regular program of films. The owners are super nice, and very open to different types of screenings.

Cinematheque Tel Aviv, Israel
Unlike the other cinemas on this list, the Cinematheque is modern, plush and chic.

Will one of the German cinemas take its place on the Jericho's Echo European Tour in April? We shall see...

Thursday, February 02, 2006

One Way Letter Video Shoot

One Way Letter Video Shoot
Originally uploaded by lizfilm.
You have probably been keeping yourself up at night wondering what has been keeping me busy while I'm not on the road with Jericho's Echo. Well, worry yourself no longer. As I get prepared for what will probably be the final JE GERMANY, no less...I have been doing a few interesting freelance projects.

The best one is pictured here...the music video shoot for the Negative Progression band, One Way Letter. When they stopped through on their tour all the way from Georgia, we went to the creepy old industrial port area south of San Francisco and got some amazing shots of the band playing live against the gritty backdrop. It was perfect for their gritty song "The Damage."