Sitting down with @Ajkeen in his Berkeley office. WEB shoot day #2 under way.
Yesterday we met Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia. Here’s a shot of Jimmy from the interview:
Today, Andrew Keen, self-proclaimed anti-Christ of Silicon Valley.
Tomorrow, Vint Cerf, Father of the Internet / Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.
Exciting times for Righteous Pictures!
For Justin Semahoro Kimenyerwa, a Congolese refugee and one of the four survivors featured in The Last Survivor, traveling to Israel has always been a dream. “It’s one of my best dreams,” Justin says.
That dream is about to become a reality. Tomorrow morning, Justin will fly to Jerusalem with director Michael Kleiman where they’ll meet up with director Michael Pertnoy for the film’s international premiere.
While it may be his first trip to Israel, Justin is no stranger to premieres. In January he attended the North American premiere of The Last Survivor in Miami. How did he respond to seeing himself on the big screen? “I felt like I had come a very long way,” he says. “It was amazing to see where I was and where I am now. That has really changed my life.”
“Life-changing” is one of many glowing adjectives people are using to describe The Last Survivor, which has won numerous awards and accolades on the festival circuit. Now, with its international premiere, the filmmakers are enjoying a homecoming of sorts. Israel is where their journey first began.
In 2008, Michael and Michael read about the influx of Darfuri refugees living in Israel. With nothing but an idea and a camera, they headed to Israel on a mission. Their investigative instincts paid off—in Tel Aviv, they developed friendships with a number of Darfuri refugees, including Adam Bashar. Adam would not only inspire the project; he would be the first survivor whose story unfolds onscreen.
Adam will be seeing the film in its entirety for the first time at the Jerusalem Film Festival. “I am really happy to see this great work,” he says. “It’s exciting to see the two Michaels produce the reality.” The two Michaels are excited, too. “We’ve been working on the project now for close to four years,” says Pertnoy. “It’s such a treat to be able to bring it back to some of the people who participated in the film—people who gave us their heart and their story.”
A number of other individuals featured in the documentary will also be making their way to the international premiere, among them Dr. Chaim Peri, director of Yemin Orde Youth Village, and members of the Darfuri Community in Israel. Other distinguished guests include Adam’s classmates from IDC University and a Canadian Member of Parliament.
Adam and Justin will sit beside each other on Friday next—two refugees from neighboring African nations who have never met in person. But if there’s one thing The Last Survivor does brilliantly, it’s underline the fact that we, as human beings, are more alike than we are different. These people’s stories could be our stories, which is precisely why we’re compelled to action. “Whatever Adam or Hedi or Jacqueline shared, it felt like they were talking on my behalf,” says Justin. “It seemed like they were saying things that I went through personally. I know how they think, because what happened to me is the same thing that happened to them.”
As Kleiman notes, “Genocide doesn’t reside in any one part of the world. We want to take the film to as many places as we can to get the conversation growing. Hopefully this is the beginning of a large international platform.”
Both screenings of The Last Survivor at the JFF are already sold out. Adam excitedly awaits Justin’s arrival, and Justin is packing his bags. “I am so excited,” he says. “So, so excited.”
And so are we.
The Last Survivor will be screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival at the following times: Sunday, July 11th @ 14:00 and Friday, July 16th @ 18:30.
Yesterday I caught up with director Michael Pertnoy after The Last Survivor’s recent screening at the San Antonio Film Festival. One of his favorite parts of taking the film on the road is the post-film discussion he gets to have with impassioned audience members. Michael described a particularly poignant moment at SAFILM last weekend.
“A woman raised her hand and said, ‘After hearing Jacqueline talk about what happened in Rwanda and how genocide is a process, do you think we should be worried about what’s happening in our country in Arizona?’”
It’s an interesting parallel. “We always talk about the moment people’s rights get taken away,” says Pertnoy. “That’s how it starts. We say, ‘You’re not like us. You’re something else.’ According to Carl Wilkens, the way to eradicate genocide is to eliminate this idea of the Other.” Carl Wilkens is the only American who chose to stay in Rwanda in 1994 and was responsible for saving hundreds of lives. He is also the namesake for the Genocide Intervention Network’s Fellowship Program, in which Pertnoy participated in 2009.
For the woman at the Q&A, Michael had a ready answer. “Absolutely,” he replied. “We should be alarmed. It would be very naïve and arrogant of us to think that a genocide couldn’t happen in our country. In fact it already has.”
It’s something we don’t hear much about, maybe because it’s left such an ugly stain on our history. In her book “A Problem from Hell:”America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power points out that we killed 19 million Native Americans in this country. Not only did we instigate a genocide of epic proportions; we are the only nation to successfully carry one out.
Which brings us to 2010. There is no outright slaughter, no Trail of Tears. But we are erecting a pernicious “Other,” this time in the form of immigrants. Recent immigration laws in Arizona not only blatantly defy our country’s cherished protections of asylum, but our Constitution itself.
“We should be outraged,” Pertnoy says. “We should be alarmed. And we should be thinking more about our civil liberties and how we ought to respond.”
As Winston Churchill famously said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The Last Survivor was, as usual, a smash hit at SAFILM, taking home the Audience Award for Best Documentary. What’s next for the filmmakers? A trip to Israel, where the film will enjoy its international premiere at the Jerusalem International Film Festival. Stay tuned for transatlantic news!