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Posts Tagged ‘Palm Springs International Film Festival’

At the 25th Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (PSIFF)

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Lupita Nyong'o being interviewed on Red Carpet at PSIFF

Lupita Nyong’o being interviewed on Red Carpet at PSIFF

PSIFF, one of the largest in the U.S., remains my most favorite film festival in the U.S.

It is attended by 135,000 people from all over the country and is always well-organized. Many films are sold out to an enthusiastic audience, and even a 9:30 a.m. show, it’s common to see a long line of people in front of a theatre.

This is my third consecutive year at the Festival.

Variety's awards luncheon: "10 Directors to Watch"

Variety’s awards luncheon: “10 Directors to Watch”

I was first exposed to PSIFF because of Mulberry Child, which was an official selection in 2012 and won “Best of the Fest” award. Afterward, I’ve been attending the Festival as a journalist, covering the Red Carpet event and interviewing filmmakers for coverage.

PSIFF always draws many super stars, this year, including Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep, and emerging star Lupita Nyong’o. Many filmmakers attend it, too. Among the big names this year, Steve McQueen (12 years a slave) and HK director Wong Kar-Wai (The Grandmaster, nominated for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film).

Sharing a moment with Elahe Hiptoola, producer of Lakshmi

Sharing a moment with Elahe Hiptoola, producer of Lakshmi

My highlight this year was an interview with Wong Kar-Wai on the Red Carpet (No, he didn’t wear dark sunglasses) and meeting with the producer and director of Lakshmi, an Indian film about child trafficking/prostitution and a young girl’s courage to fight against her oppressors.

Lakshmi’s director, Nagesh Kukunoor, and producer, Elahe Hiptoola, are both passionate about filmmaking. They have been in collaboration since Kukunoor’s first film in 1997. Lakshmi was well received by the audience at PSIFF and won “Best of the Fest.”

Taking a photo for a fan with  Nagesh Kukunoor, director of Lakshmi

Taking a photo for a fan with Nagesh Kukunoor, director of Lakshmi

A few other Asian films were also selected at the Festival, including Chinese director Feng Xiaogang’s epic film Back to 1942, and Singapore director Anthony Chen’s ILO ILO. (Anthony Chen was among the “10 Directors to Watch” named and awarded by Variety at the Festival.)

I did coverage about the Festival for Xinhua News, including the following releases:

Interview: Chinese-French collaborative film “Nightingale” shows beauty of China’s countryside

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/entertainment/2014-01/11/c_133036807.htm

Super stars light up Palm Springs Film Festival

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/entertainment/2014-01/05/c_133019792.htm

Feature: Asian films, filmmakers shine at Palm Springs Film Festival

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/china/2014-01/09/c_133031614.htm

I look forward to going back to Palm Springs next January to attend another feast of wonderful films and meet with more inspiring filmmakers.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Mulberry Child will be on PBS nationwide in May 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

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Asian filmmakers at PSIFF

Friday, February 1st, 2013
A scene from Our Homeland

A scene from Our Homeland

At the recent 24th Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), I was excited to meet several emerging Asian or Asian American filmmakers.

Yong-Hi Yang, director of “Our Homeland” from Japan and Chhay Bora, director of “Lost Loves” from Cambodia were among them.

Yang’s feature film is based on her own life. She was born and raised in Japan but keeps a South Korean passport, country of her parents’ origin. Descendants of Koreans brought to Japan during its colonial rule were very much discriminated. Many Koreans willingly went to North Korea in the 1950s seeking a better life. Yang’s three older brothers were among them. This film featured one of her brothers, who, after spending 25 years in North Korea, obtained permission to visit Japan for the treatment of a brain tumor. The family was monitored by a North Korean agent during his visit, and his three-month stay was cut short to 10 days without explanation. The tension generated among family members was presented with subtlety and depth. Having lived in the 60s in China, I have a deep understanding of the brother’s fear and pessimistic submission to the system, “just to survive,” as he plainly stated. I like the film’s realistic presentation and the performance, especially the brother and the loving mother.

A scene from Lost Loves

A scene from Lost Loves

I didn’t have a chance to watch Bora’s film. It was a heart-rending true story of Leav Sila, a Cambodian mother who tried to keep her family alive, only to see most of them killed or starved to death under the Khmer Rouge regime.  The story is based on the mother of Bora’s wife who is one of the two surviving children in the family. I learned that Bora and his wife put their life savings together to fund this project. “The story must be told,” Bora said. “Lost Loves” was Cambodia’s first submission to the Academy Awards in 18 years.

I ran into Ramona Diaz at the festival’s hospitality room. There were not that many black-haired people at the room provided for people in the industry. When I saw one at a desk, I went over to say hi. I learned she was from the Philippines and had been in the U.S. for many years. She invited me to see her film “Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey”, a documentary film focusing on the success of Arnel Pineda, a poor singer from the Philippines. Arnel has successfully filled the big shoes of Steve Perry in the band “Journey” and made the revival of the band a great hit.

A scene from "Journey"

A scene from “Journey”

I very much enjoyed the film and was excited to learn later on that the film was selected as one of the “Best of the Fest”, 15 out of 180 films. A great honor!

The last Asian filmmaker I met was Wendy Lee, director of “Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey”. It’s about a journey taken by 700 people under Buddhist leader Galwang Drupka to walk 450 miles across the Himalayas to bring awareness about environmental problems to the locals.

Lee’s publicist reached out to the media list at PSIFF and I scheduled an interview with her. I was surprised to see Lee so young. She has won quite a few awards for the film and is working on the screenplay of her next film project.

Each of them is unique in his or her own ways and passionate about the path they have chosen. I wish them success and look forward to seeing more of their works and those of other Asian filmmakers in the future.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.

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24th Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival honors stars and filmmakers

Monday, January 7th, 2013
Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren

I had the good fortune of attending the 24th Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), partially to cover the event as a journalist, and partially to enjoy the films and meet with people in the industry.

The most glamorous event at PSIFF, among the top three largest in North America, is the star-filled, black-tie Award Gala held at the Convention Center on Sat. Jan. 6. More than 10 actors/actresses and filmmakers received recognition to the enthusiastic applauses of 2,000 people in the audience.

Director Ang Lee stepped first on to the stage to present the Frederick Loewe Award for Film Composing to Mychael Danna (“Life of Pi”).

Lee said “Life of Pi” is “an adventure of motion picture” in which he wants to present a story that is both philosophical and complicated.

“When I didn’t know how to put the film together, I called Mychael,” Lee said. He praised Danna as a wonderful filmmaker and credited his simple yet profound music for “bringing life and soul to ‘Life of Pi’.”

Darryle Macdonald, Festival Director, called the Festival “a singular celebration of the cinema’s power to provoke, entertain and enthrall all those who open themselves up to new horizons and a journey beyond the comfortable confines of everyday experience.”

Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper

Other recipients of honors at the gala include actor Richard Gere (“Arbitrage”) for Chairman’s Award, actress Helen Hunt (“The Sessions”) for Spotlight Award, director Robert Zemeckis (“Flight”) for Director of the Year Award, actress Naomi Watts (“The Impossible”) for Desert Palm Achievement Award, director Tom Hooper (“Les Miserables”) for Sonny Bono Visionary Award, actress Helen Mirren, (“Hitchcock”) for International Star Award, actor Bradley Cooper (“Silver Linings Playbook”) for Desert Palm Achievement Award, actress Sally Field (“Lincoln”) for Career Achievement Award, and actors Ben Affleck (also director), Alan Arkin and Bryan Cranston (“Argo”) for Ensemble Performance Awards.

Presenters of the awards were equally impressive in their own career achievements. Besides Lee, others include John Hawkes, Tom Holland, Tom Hanks, David O’Russell, Eddie Redmayne, Diane Lane, Tom Hooper, and Tony Mendez, who, different from the rest who are Hollywood stars or film directors, is the CIA officer who planned the rescue of six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in 1980 that the film is based on.

“When I went in, I had the support of my colleagues in the CIA and our government,” Mendez said, “and the help of our friends in the Canadian government — not to mention some very creative people in the movie business who helped me carry out what became known as ‘The Hollywood Option.’”

Ang Lee

Ang Lee

“I never imagined that our ‘Hollywood Option’ would ultimately be optioned by Hollywood,” he continued.

PSIFF will screen 42 of the 71 foreign-language films submitted for Academy Awards. A total of 180 films from 68 countries have been selected, among them, 15 are from Asia, including Cheng Kaige’s “Caught in the Web”, Wendy J.N. Lee’s “Pad Yatra: A Green Odyssey” (Executive producer: Michelle Yeoh), and Chang Jung-Chi’s “Touch of the Light”.

“I’m excited to be here,” said Cambodian director Chhay Bora whose film “Lost Loves” is shown at the Festival. “It’s so great to see such interest and support for film,” he continued.

To watch more about the red carpet arrivals and interviews, click the link below:

http://www.epklink.com/24thpalmspringsfilmfest

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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Norman Mark Memorial

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

My wife and I recently attended a moving memorial service for Norman Mark, the journalist, author, TV anchor, film critic and wine aficionado. Norman died suddenly at the age of 72 in Palm Desert, California, his home for the past decade. I can’t really say that I knew Norman well or was a close friend of his.  He was born and raised in Chicago, and I had met him in the mid-1990s when I was Chairman of the Chicago International Film Festival. He was the MC for our Gala event in 1995, when the honoree for the evening was the actress Faye Dunaway. To say that Ms. Dunaway had been difficult, was an understatement. Changing limos and hotel suites was the tip of the iceberg, and so I was anxious about the highlight of our event and how things would turn out. I remember explaining to Norman the difficult couple of days we’d had, and expressing my concern as to how the honoring ceremony and speeches would go for that evening.  He put his hand on my shoulder clearly seeing my concern and said, “Don’t worry.  She’s just a big pain in the —.”  He then laughed, making me feel comfortable and less anxious, and of course the evening and his introduction of Ms. Dunaway went very smoothly.

Although we saw each other from time-to-time when he relocated to Palm Springs, my wife and I found ourselves seated next to Norman and his lovely wife Grace at the opening night event of the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival, where our movie “Mulberry Child,” of which I am the executive producer, was being screened. He promised to see the film and expressed much interest in the subject matter of the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the impact even today on families that went through that trauma. As it happened, he gave the Movie a great review, and named it one of the 5 best “must-see” movies of the Festival.

My wife and I were leaving for Europe, and would not return to the Palm Springs area until April. We agreed that we would phone upon our return and make a date for dinner. What a lesson! In our daily lives we all assume, that we can make simple arrangements like dinner dates weeks or months into the future, without of course, ever giving a thought that fate might take a hand. We were shocked to hear of Norman’s sudden passing, and found ourselves with our good friend Chaz Ebert, attending his memorial service in Palm Desert, instead of arranging to have dinner together.

The memorial was held in the pretty garden of the Mark’s delightful home, and was attended by close friends and family. It was a celebration of Norman’s life, with commentary from his dearest friends and his children. I learned that Norman was first and foremost a man of humor. A person who throughout his career had endeared himself to all that had worked and socialized with him. He loved his work, and found humor in everything. He had a passion for show business from his boyhood years and following his education at Northwestern, he pursued a full and enjoyable career in TV and journalism. Speaker after speaker told stories and anecdotes, about his pranks, jokes and sense of humor. A person who always saw the glass half full, and went through life with a perpetual smile on his face. It was a wonderful sendoff from those that loved him the most. I was deeply conscious, that leaving a footprint on this Earth, based upon humor and a love of life to the full is probably the most rewarding thing we can do. Norman’s Memorial in Palm Desert was repeated in Chicago a couple of weeks later, with a large crowd of friends, former colleagues, and admirers.

My wife and I were so sorry, that we had not made it to that restaurant date, which would have led to a closer friendship with Norman and his wife Grace, two people that we and many others would have liked to have known better.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com

Mulberry Child Premiered in Chicago

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

At the reception of Mulberry Child

At 7 p.m. on Saturday, January 21, the reception area at the Gene Siskel Film Center became alive with the arrival of our friends, friends’ friends and Mulberry Child’s viewers who had all managed to purchase their tickets in advance.

We had a pre-screening reception, sponsored by Wintrust Commercial Bank. Our first screening in Chicago was sold out three weeks before the scheduled date. Each of us, my executive director Ellis, my daughter Lisa, and I, had received emails or phone calls from friends who tried to get help from us to buy tickets. Unfortunately, we didn’t have access to any—they were all sold out. In the end, I even gave my ticket to a friend.

I was very touched by the support we had received in Chicago and the overwhelmingly positive response from the audience at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis and more recently, the Palm Springs International Film Festival where we had sold out screenings and was selected as “Best of the Fest”, an honor bestowed to only 14 films out of 188 from 73 countries at the festival. We were thrilled.

With Lisa and her friends

Last week in Chicago, shortly before our premiere, we were overjoyed to read Roger Ebert‘s review of Mulberry Child, with a rating of 3.5 stars out of 4. My director Susan was in tears when she heard the news. “Roger Ebert is my god,” she said, referring to his highly-respected film critic voice in the industry.  “You have no idea what an honor that is,” she said to me.

I think I got the idea when Phil Ponce, anchor of the Chicago Tonight Show, opened his interview with me about the film with Roger Ebert’s rating last week.

“This is a powerful and touching film,” Roger Ebert wrote.

We were all “over the moon,” to use a word Ellis said. Indeed, we all felt overjoyed and honored.

At the reception on Saturday, I did the best I could welcome people, only to regret that I had no time or opportunity to introduce them to Susan and Ellis.

I was especially pleased that Lisa introduced me to a few of her friends.

“Tell me if you still love her after watching the film,” I joked with them.

“They will,” Lisa cut in, a big smile crossing her face. “Because they are my friends!”

With my friend and fellow writer Jennifer Anton

We had plenty of food and drink at the reception. Shortly before 8 p.m., everyone walked into the theatre for the screening. Lisa, my supportive husband Francis, Chao, an ITT student who was working with me throughout the evening, and I were the only people remained in the reception area. Lisa and I had both given out our tickets to our friends, and even if we had tickets, we might not have the nerve to watch the film with so many people who know personally, a big difference from attending film festivals at other cities.

We walked into the theatre for Q & A a few minutes before the end of the film. The theatre was very quiet, except for an occasional sniffing from one seat or another, indicating someone was crying. A mere glance on the screen on which my father was giving me his last wave shortly before his passing brought tears to my eyes.

We had a long Q & A session and most of the people in the audience stayed until the last minute.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart!

Roger Ebert’s full review:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120118/REVIEWS/120119987

Interview with Phil Ponce on Chicago Tonight Show, WTTW:

http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2012/01/19/mulberry-child

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.

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At Palm Springs International Film Festival (final)

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Audience lined up to watch Mulberry Child at PSIFFWe finished PSIFF with a bang!

In the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 14, the eagerly expected list of the “Best of the Fest” was announced. We, the entire crew of Mulberry Child, were thrilled to see (or hear from immediate phone calls or emails) that Mulberry Child was among the 14 narrative and documentary films included in the “Best of the Fest”. There were more than 180 films attending PSIFF, and we all felt so excited and honored that Mulberry Child was regarded as one of the best films at this prestigious festival!

Today Camelot and Regal, the two theatres engaged with PSIFF, will be showing the “Best of the Fest” starting at 10 a.m. Mulberry Child is scheduled for screening at 6 p.m. at the Camelot theatre. See list and screening time at the link below:

http://www.psfilmfest.org//_uploaded/psiff12bestoffestflyerpreliminarylist_774383.pdf

Lisa answering audience's question after a screening of Mulberry Child

We are looking forward to the screenings of Mulberry Child at the Gene Siskel Film Center on Jan. 21, 24 and 26 (tickets for Jan. 21 have been sold out, but the other two days are still available) in Chicago, and at the Sedona International Film Festival in February.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. The feature-length documentary film based on the book is directed by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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AT Palm Springs International Film Festival (3)

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Jian, Susan and Lisa, brushing shoulders with the stars at PSIFF

I heard the cheers and yelling from the balcony of my hotel room before arriving at the 23rd Annual International Awards Gala. I realized the walk on the red carpet had already started. Lisa and I rushed to the hotel lobby in our evening gowns and high heels and joined Susan to go to the Palm Springs Convention Center located half a block away where the Awards Gala was held.

The dark night was illuminated by flashlights from countless cameras as hundreds of people lined up on both sides of the street to watch the arrival of film stars. Everyone attending the Gala appeared as glamorous in their tuxedos and evening dresses as the stars.

The stars. I had never seen any film stars in person before. Watching them step out of their stretch limos and hearing the roar of the crowd, it felt so unreal. Through a forest of raised cameras, I saw George Clooney posing for the paparazzi, Tom Hanks waving, and Jessica Chastain smiling…. Lisa couldn’t resist the temptation to take snap shots of a few stars with her iPhone.

We filed into the Convention Center slowly, accompanied by the clicking and flashing of cameras. We found Ellis and Gillian, already inside, waiting for us at the entrance of the enormous auditorium where formal dinning tables were set up for a record attendance of 1,900 people. A large bunch of purple tulips was displayed on each table as a center piece, lightening up the atmosphere. Waiters dressed in white and black uniforms managed to walk around offering various appetizers, and people gathered in small groups chatting or looking for more opportunities to see the stars.

We eventually made our way to our table, 401, at the 4th row from the front, a very good seating. Lisa disappeared from us to take more photos of the celebrities as they walked to their tables.

Harold Matzner, Chairman of the Festival, gave a welcome speech; Mary Hart acted as MC of the ceremony. As the evening unfolded, numerous actors and filmmakers were presented with awards, including Gary Oldman, Glenn Close, Brat Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Michelle Williams. As their awards were being announced by equally renowned actors such as Tom Hanks and Al Pacino, clippings of their performances were presented on the three large screens in the front. Waves of cheers and applause filled the auditorium.

It was amazing to see all these stars in person, and surprisingly, they appeared somehow smaller in real life than their images on the film screen.

Hours later, as we walked out of the auditorium to attend the “by-invitation only” after party at the Parker Hotel, my feet were killing me. I wonder how many of the women, who were walking with their heads up and chests high, were experiencing the same kind of pains.

Once outside, I was surprised to see hundreds of people were still waiting outside behind the security lines to see the stars. Despite the exerted efforts of traffic control, numerous limos stood still on the street, unable to move on. There was no way for Ellis to get his car anytime soon, so we walked the short distance to our hotel. By the time he finally came to take us to the after party, Susan and I had changed into more comfortable shoes, though Lisa braved through the rest of the night in her high heels.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been made into a feature-length documentary film by Susan Morgan Cooper and narrated by Jacqueline Bisset.

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At Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (2)

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Jian and Jodi who performed Jian as a child met at the theatre at PSIFF

I arrived at the Regal Theatre to attend the 1st screening of Mulberry Child shortly after 12 noon on Saturday and was surprised to see two long lines of people in front of the entrance. I had never been to this theatre before and thought one had to wait to get in for all the screenings.

“Jennifer,” a man in the line waved to me.

It took me a second to recognize Sean Valla, my film editor. I met Sean quite a few times during the editing process of the film in Los Angeles and was always impressed by his dedication and patience combing through mountains of footage and the endless close ups of my face for all the interviews that my director Susan conducted.

I was thrilled to see him and surprised to learn the two lines were all for entry to the screening of Mulberry Child: one line for ticket holders and the other, people standing by for the possibility of getting in at the last minute, for tickets had been sold out the week before. My heart skipped a beat.

By the time I managed to get into the theatre, my executive producer Ellis and his wife Gillian and Susan were already there. I saw the theatre was nearly full and felt sorry that many people waiting outside wouldn’t be able to come in.

Susan tapped me on my shoulder. “I want you to meet Jodi,” she said.

I looked at the little girl by her side. Jodi performed the 6-year-old me in the film and I had never met her before.

I wrapped Jodi in my arms. “You did a wonderful job,” I murmured in her ear.

Jodi gave her shy smile and looked at me with an expression I had seen so many times on the screen.

Jian and Lisa after Q & A when Jian signed books for interested viewers

I scanned the audience and was thrilled to see a few familiar faces, including Quyen Tran, my cinematographer and her husband, Sam, Eli Bergmann, my book editor, and his girlfriend Lily. They had driven all the way from Los Angeles to watch the film. I also noticed Chaz Ebert sitting next to Ellis, and a couple rows below, Norman Mark and his beautiful wife Grace. I was touched.by all the support.

Half way through the film, Lisa was ushered into the theatre. She had just flown in from Chicago this morning to attend the Q & A and I was relieved that she made it on time.

As it was at the Heartland Film Festival, many people in the audience asked questions about the film, my parents and their views on the Cultural Revolution, and Lisa’s on-going process of identifying with her Chinese roots. When the Q & A session ended, quite a few people lingered behind and continued the discussion. Once Chinese man’s comments particularly touched me.

“I also come from the Northeast of China,” he said, as we shook hands. “I was sent to the countryside for six years,” he continued. “I very much like the presentation of that historical period in your film as it was done sensibly, not an over kill.”

It meant so much to me the remark came from someone who had lived through the Cultural Revolution in China.

Once again, I was overwhelmed and touched by the reaction from the audience.

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At Palm Springs International Film Festival

Saturday, January 7th, 2012
Welcome to Palm Springs!

Image by bamalibrarylady via Flickr

I arrived to the beautiful sunshine at Palm Springs yesterday afternoon. After checking in at the Renaissance Hotel and getting my credentials at the hospitality room at the hotel, I got together with Ellis, my film executive producer, and Susan, my director.

We started this exciting film festival by attending a private party in the home of Brenda, a former film commissioner in Illinois. Brenda lives in Palm Springs now, but because of her Chicago ties, there were many people from Chicago and the midwest were there, including Chaz Ebert, Roger Ebert’s wife and Morman Mark, a former Chicago TV host and journalist. I was trilled to meet her and many others.

Listing of Mulberry Child in the program of PSIFF

Early this morning, I went out for a hike on a trail behind the Art Museum, about 6 blocks away from the hotel. I waited until daylight to get on the trail and was soon captivated by the tranquility of the sprawling mountain ranges around me. I was relieved to see another hiker half way up a hill and watched him disappear as I stopped to admire the scenes of the valley.

Despite my fear of getting lost, I couldn’t resist the temptation of going higher and reaching one and then another peak. When I finally sat down on the flat surface of a large rock, I found myself bathed in the warmth of the rising sun. I extended my arms toward the blue sky, my thoughts turning to my grandmother and father, wishing that somewhere up there, they could see me and know I was here to tell their life stories on the screen to a large audience.  Memories of my childhood flooded back, with grandma’s smiling face vividly in my mind. Watching the valley below me—dotted with palm trees and swimming pools, I found it hard to believe this was reality. Tears came to my eyes as I told Grandma that her legacy would live on through generations to come…

The first screening of Mulberry Child is at 12:30 p.m. today. As I descended quickly down the trail, I wiped away the tears of gratitude and joy and felt more determined and energized than ever before.

Jian Ping, author Mulberry Child: a Memoir of Child.

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More On Movies

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Of the many movies that I saw at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, two docu/dramas stand out.  These are listed under the True Stories section of the Film Festival.  Both of them were Holocaust stories, but with completely different angles.

“Inside Hana’s Suitcase” tells the poignant story of two young children who grew up in pre- WWII Czechoslovakia and the terrible events that led to Hana’s death in Auschwitz.  In addition to tracing the lives of Hana Brady and her brother George who is the main narrator of the movie, (a beautiful performance from an 80-year-old man who now lives in Toronto Canada), the film covers the lives of their family during the 1930’s and 1940’s.  George is the only survivor. 

However the film also tells the present-day story of the “The Small Wings” a group of Japanese youngsters, and how their passionate and tenacious teacher, Fumiko Ishioka, helped them solve the mystery of Hana Brady, whose name was painted on an old battered suitcase that they received from Auschwitz – the notorious Nazi death camp.  The voices of children from Japan, Canada, and the Czech Republic contributed to the telling of Hana’s story. 

I thought the film was beautifully directed, narrated and dramatized and will undoubtedly garner numerous awards around the world.

A similar true story but one that has been made into a narrative film is “Broken Promise” which covers the young life of Martin Friedmann, a Jewish Slavic boy, who in 1939 is more concerned with refining his considerable soccer abilities than the fact that Czechoslovakia has become an ally of Nazi Germany.  His father, a poultry merchant, senses the problems to come and asks his nine children to swear that they will meet every year at Passover – whatever happens.  It is not a promise that the family members were able to keep.  Martin’s soccer skills and a considerable amount of luck, allow him to survive the concentration camp at Terizin and the transportation to Auschwitz that befell so many prisoners (including George and Hana Brady).  Amazingly, he gets transferred to a TB clinic, from which he talks his way into working in a Monastery; and, as the Russian armies advance in 1945, he joins a group of Soviet-led partisans, and despite some hair-raising events, survives the war.  Only one brother survives from his total family. 

Martin Friedmann was at the screening and spoke to the audience after the showing of this movie.  He is now an 85-year-old upright strong looking man, who became a civil engineer after the war and left Czechoslovakia when the Communists took control in1949 when he moved to Israel, to meet up with his sole surviving brother. 

An amazing story, which is beautifully done, and which may be on a short list for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.

Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden: www.bearanyburden.com