Although filmmaker Gloria Greenfield has interviewed me for her two previous films, this was the first time I sat down with her and asked her some questions. (For a review of the new film, Body and Soul - the State of the Jewish Nation, click here.)
Q: Did you always want to be a film director? What were your earliest ambitions?
A: In elementary school I wanted to be a resistance fighter the next time the Nazis came. In middle school I thought I would be a psychologist. I never imagined that I would be a film director, although I always loved film.
Q: What drives you?
A: I am very grateful that I was raised with a strong sense of obligation and responsibility for the protection and well-being of the Jewish nation, both as a people and as a state. As a young girl born shortly after the Shoah as well as the rebirth of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, my father instructed me to “go fight” if the Jewish state or the lives of the Jewish people were ever threatened again. The work that I am doing is how I feel I can best “fight back” at this time in my life
Q What do people ask you after they have viewed your two previous films?
A. "What can be done [to stop the resurgence of lethal weaponry?
“How can we protect our children who are going off to college?
“What can be done about what is being taught in our high schools?
“Is there any hope for the end of the ‘Palestinian-Israel conflict?
“Why aren’t our children taught about the centrality of the land of Israel to Jewish identity in religious school?”
“Why won’t our Jewish day school allow Israel advocacy films to be shown?”
“How come we don’t read about what’s going on in our newspapers?
“We feel so ashamed; how come we [Christians] weren’t taught about the history of Christian Jew-hatred?”
“Why is the Church silent about the massacre of Christians in Muslim countries in the Middle East?”
“Why is Europe allowing Islamist violence against Europeans in general and Jews in particul
“Why do so many rabbis in the diaspora criticize Israel from the bimah?”
“Why is the United States funding the United Nations?”
“Why do so many organizations identify as ‘pro-Israel’ rather than ‘Zionist’? Do they think the legitimacy of Israel is debatable like abortion and marijuana?
“What can we do about Jews who are calling for the destruction of Israel?
“How can we get our church to be more supportive of Israel?”
“What can we do?”
Q: What effect do you believe your films will have on the course of history?
A: The late George Stoney, professor of film and cinema at New York University and a pioneer in the field of documentary film, argued that 50 percent of the documentary filmmaker’s job is making the movie, and 50 percent is figuring out what its impact can be and how it can move audiences to action.
Doc Emet Productions conceptualizes the production and distribution of the documentary as an intervention into a policy process. In other words, the documentary “works” within a network by being linked to activists and policy makers at all levels. The deeper and broader these linkages are, the greater the opportunity for political impact. The various networks can use the documentary to mobilize their own and other groups, to mobilize individual citizens, and ultimately to change public policy.
Since Doc Emet Productions is interested in international impact, internationally-recognized experts and scholars from around the world are engaged as featured commentators, and the films are translated into 7-8 languages, usually Arabic, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Doc Emet Productions builds strategic marketing alliances which has been a critical driver in the films’ distribution, which spans Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, North America and Latin America.
As importantly, Doc Emet Productions’ films are committed to contributing towards the strengthening of Jewish identity, Jewish nationhood and the values of freedom and democracy
Q: (Greenfield and I were both part of the Second Wave of feminism in America. I had to ask her this question): Where did you park your feminist passions and do they still motivate you in any way?
A. I walked out of the radical feminist movement in 1983 because it had become a breeding ground for Jew-hatred. That doesn’t mean that I underwent an intellectual lobotomy and lost all consciousness about empowerment, sexism, and violence against women. I affirm the invaluable positive impact that the process of consciousness-raising afforded me, particularly its contribution in helping shape me into a strong, empowered woman. I have no patience for bigoted or condescending attitudes towards women, which from a positive perspective gets reflected in the individuals and organizations I choose to work with. I want to stress, though, that in the same way I do not characterize or perceive every male as a misogynist, I do not characterize or perceive every female as a woman of valor.
Q: Have you had any response at all from progressives, leftists, feminists to any of your films? Do they come, do they oppose, do they embrace your work?
A: One of the important underlying messages that I try to convey in all of Doc Emet Productions films is the importance of unity, and the way that I convey that is to make sure that the expert commentators in each film represent a range from left of center, center, to right of center. That doesn’t necessarily result in fans from the progressive and feminist movements, but I am not seeking fans. I do, however, know that Doc Emet Productions films have stirred individual progressives and leftists to think more deeply about issues raised in the films.
Q: Do Christians and Muslims attend your films? Have you been invited to speak in churches and mosques?
A: Non-Jews (including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Bahai) attend screenings of my films. There have been many screenings in churches as well as Christian conferences, and I have been interviewed with clips from my films on Christian broadcast channels. However, I have not yet been invited into a mosque. Having said that, there have been community screenings that have been co-sponsored by moderate Muslim organizations.
Q. Do you already have a next project in mind?
A. There are some ideas that I have in the back of my mind but I won’t make any decision until after I tour with Body and Soul – The State of the Jewish Nation for at least 6-12 months. Then my decision can be driven by what issue or focus is most needed.