During our recent interview with Ellis Perez, the Director General of the Dominican Republic's film organization DGCine which you can read tomorrow, he mentioned an interesting factoid about DR. Aside from its being the site of Christopher Columbus' second landing in 1492 and his naming the country Hispanola, its being the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Americas, its sharing 1/3 of the island with Haiti, and its reign of terror by the dictator Trujillo from 1930 until his assassination in 1961, there was one good act performed by El Jefe. That was his open-door policy which accepted Jewish refugees from Europe, Japanese migration during the 1930s, and exiles from Spain following its civil war. In 1939 Trujillo took in German and Austrian Jewish refugees and gave them a safe haven in Puerto Plata province's town Sosua where many still live or have returned after being educated abroad. Another coincidental connection of the DR to the Jews is that the current President Leonel Fernandez spent most of his childhood and teenaged years in Washington Heights during its transition from being a German Jewish neighborhood to becoming the Dominican neighborhood it is today.
And speaking of New York, here is a second Jews in the News item which also includes a doc about Sosua!
The New York-based Foundation for Jewish Culture has granted finishing funds to six documentaries.
Finishing funds ranging between $12,000 and $40,000 have recently been granted to six documentaries. The funds are designed to enable the filmmakers to pay licence fees for music and archival footage, complete additional editing and shooting and build audience awareness through outreach and engagement strategies.
The grants fall under the Foundation’s Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film which supports projects expanding understanding of the Jewish experience. 80 projects made applications this year and the final six recipients were selected by a panel including MOMA’s Sally Berger, filmmaker Nicole Opper, film critic George Robinson and Daniella Tourgeman from the Jerusalem Cinematheque/ Israel Film Archive.
The fund has supported the completion of over 80 films since 1996 including Waltz With Bashir, Budrus, William Kunstler: Disturbing The Universe and The Rape Of Europa.
The winning projects are:
· Sosua: Dare To Dance Together directed and produced by Peter Miller and Renee Silverman, which follows Jewish and Dominican teenagers over the course of the year as they create a musical theatre piece about German Jews finding refuge in the Dominican Republic in the late 1930s.
How To Re-Establish A Vodka Empire directed by Dan Edelstyn, which traces the history of the film-maker’s Jewish grandmother who fled the Bolshevik revolution and settled in strife-torn Belfast.
· Miss World directed by Cecilia Peck (Shut Up And Sing), which is the story of Israeli beauty pageant queen Linor Abargil and her crusade to combat sexual violence against women.
· My Father Evgeni directed and produced by Andrei Zagdansky, follows the filmmaker’s history working with his father for the Kiev Popular Science Film Studios.
· The Return directed and produced by Adam Zucker (Greensboro: Closer To The Truth), which follows four young Polish women who were raised Catholic only to discover that they were born Jewish.
· Watchers Of The Sky directed by Edet Belzberg (Children Underground) which interweaves stories of four visionaries with the journey of lawyer Raphael Lemkin who drafted and pushed through the UN Genocide Convention.