We’re thrilled to announce that our documentary film, Web, will be having its world premiere at the DOC NYC Film Festival on Saturday, November 16th at 2:00pm at the IFC Center in Manhattan. The Michaels will be there for a Q&A after the film.
It’s been a long and unforgettable journey working on this project over the last four years and we’re so very excited to finally share it with the world. We know geography will force some of you to miss the premiere but we hope that many of the New Yorkers can join us. For those who can’t make it to Saturday’s screening, there is a second screening being held on Tuesday, November 19th at 5:00pm also at the IFC Center.
You can find details about the film and buy tickets here.
See you at the Movies!
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!
War, genocide and poverty are just a few of the problems that plague our world. No one likes to hear bad news and too much of it can numb us to the plight of others. We turn off the television, log off the computer, fold up the newspaper, and immerse ourselves in the serenity of a secure ordinary life. However, there is no bliss in ignorance and ignoring the great problems of our time won’t make them go away. Our complacency only makes things worse.
I got a “wakeup call” and was once again stirred to action after talking with Michael Pertnoy at a screening of his documentary “The Last Survivor,” during the 2010 Little Rock Film Festival. This amazing film reminded me that all of us can do something to end injustice and promote reconciliation. The beautiful cinematography and compelling characters in his masterpiece also helped me remember my own trek to the Sudan and Kenya in the summer of 2006.
My journey began while I was a graduate student at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. Part of the school’s curriculum required that I work on a service project abroad and I knew I wanted an adventure in Africa. After researching a variety of humanitarian projects, I finally committed to working on some innovative programs in Southern Sudan with Winrock International, an innovative global nonprofit organization; the VEGA consortium, the world’s largest alliance of economic growth volunteer organizations; and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Over the course of three months, I lived and worked in impoverished villages and burgeoning cities, like Juba and Rumbek. I trained Southern Sudanese journalists in the art of investigative reporting and I participated in a variety of agriculture and small business development programs that were aimed at helping the people of Southern Sudan rebuild their country’s economic infrastructure after decades of war. I shall never forget the harrowing stories I heard and the resilient people I met throughout the Sudan and at the United Nations’ Kakuma Refugee Camp in northern Kenya. The courage of the Sudanese people and the grace of that global group of volunteers working with them truly inspired me.
In 2007, on a shoestring budget, I completed a documentary with footage and interviews from my travels in the Sudan and Kenya. The thirty-minute film titled “A Partnership for Prosperity: Public Servants in Southern Sudan” focuses on all of the economic development initiatives taking place in the country. The documentary also spotlights the work of aid organizations that are assisting Southern Sudanese citizens in the valiant effort to strengthen war-torn communities. Simply put, the film project was a labor of love.
As World Refugee Day approaches, I am reminded of my friends and colleagues in Southern Sudan. I shall never forget them or my journey. There is still so much more work to be done in the Sudan and countless other countries. We all must use our energy, time and talents to raise awareness, combat inequality, and alleviate the plight of the poor and oppressed around the world. Our future cannot afford indifference in the face of injustice.
Here is the link to an excerpt from my documentary on You Tube:
Don’t forget that World Refugee Day 2010 is this Sunday. To prepare for WRD:
▪ Call 1-800-GENOCIDE to make your voice heard to your elected representatives. To date, more than 25,000 activists have called this number. Let’s make it 50,000 by June 20th!
▪ Join the Genocide Intervention Network and the Save Darfur Coalition on Meetup.com to meet up with refugees and activists who live in your community.
Michael, Tom and I spent the weekend at the Independent Film Festival of Boston. True to it’s name, the festival did an incredible job in promoting and showing some amazing independent films. The documentary lineup was particularly impressive, with 22 docs in competition!
Our sold-out screening was yesterday at 2:15PM. And it was a huge success. Mapendo International brought many people to the screening, including Justin, who made the afternoon truly unforgettable. When the film finished, nearly everyone in the audience remained in their seats for the Q&A. Michael, Sasha Channoff and Justin fielded questions from an eager audience.
Personally, I had the support of friends and family who came up from New York just to see the film. Each of them came over to me after the film to individually thank me for providing them with such a profoundly moving experience. Once again, THE LAST SURVIVOR proves its ability to evoke strong emotional reactions from people. Many of the attendees at the screening left with pamphlets given out by Mapendo volunteers — and I have no doubt that they will all be moved to some sort of action.
The screening/Q&A ended with Justin teaching us all how to sing “Mambo Sawa Sawa.” The audience erupted in song, dance, and cheer as Justin lit up the room with his usual angelic spirit.
Boston was another great success. In two weeks we are off to LA for the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. I imagine the momentum will continue to build out West just as it did back here on the East coast.
Reporting back from New York. Over and out -
On Thursday, we said “goodbye” to Dallas and “hello” to Atlanta.
I must say, as I recap our 5 days at the Dallas International Film Festival, I cannot imagine how the week could have gone any better than it did. We sold out both of our screenings, attended some incredible events, met interesting people, and moved THE LAST SURVIVOR one step closer to being seen by mass audiences around the globe. And as icing on the cake, during Friday’s award ceremony we were announced as winners of the DIFF Special Jury Prize!!!
From Dallas, director Michael Pertnoy made the trip to Atlanta, Georgia where the film is already garnering significant buzz around town. The Atlanta premier of THE LAST SURVIVOR is today at 2:20 PM at the Midtown Art Cinema. I look forward to keeping you updated on all of the happenings in Atlanta and beyond.
Over and out-
Monday was a day we’ll never forget. Day 3 of the Festival – but for us – it felt like it had really just begun.
We began the day by going to the festival’s press office and were interviewed by the Dallas Film Festival and Red Carpet Crash. The surreal nature of the day’s events began here, where the reverence with which the interviewers treated us and our film was truly humbling.
Moving forward, the evening began at the Hotel Palomar, where Michael, Thomas and I met 6 of the 12 volunteers from SaveDarfur and STAND, who had come to join us for the screening. These young adults, seniors from Plano high school, were unbelievable. Enthusiastic and intelligent, they met the opportunity to volunteer with the perfect mix of excitement and maturity. The film was made for young people like them, and their involvement means so much to us.
From the hotel, we went downtown to the Magnolia Theatre to walk the red carpet. I’ve gotta say, this was a thrilling moment! Michael was a superstar, fielding questions from many local reporters and students with the eloquence and calming presence that we have all gotten so used to. Thomas, Jeff and I also had the opportunity to share our unique experiences with the crowd – and from the get go – the positive energy was in the air and we knew this would be a special evening.
Check out Michael’s interview with Red Carpet Crash (starts at 5:08)!: DIFF’10: Red Carpet Day 5
From the red carpet, we drove back to the Angelika Theatre for the 7:15 screening. The film was sold out and as the lights went down, I got quite emotional as I realized that we are in the process of actualizing our dream. When the movie was over, I turned around to see that nearly the entire crowd remained in their seats for the Q&A.
The audience was eager to hear about the process of making the film and the characters themselves. It lasted over 30 minutes, which is almost unheard of at a festival, and is testament to the ability the film has to touch people on a deep, emotional level. The vibes in the theatre were almost tangible. Every time someone new sees THE LAST SURVIVOR we are struck by the connection the viewers feel to Hedi, Jacqueline, Justin and Adam. It reminds me how lucky I am to have met and spent time with these four inspiring Survivors. As audience members came up to us after the film to share their thoughts and emotions, we once again realized the power the film has to inspire ACTion.
Part of the success of our sold out screening is a tribute to our amazing partners here at the festival; the Dallas Holocaust Museum, 3 Stars Jewish Cinema and the JCC of Dallas. Each organization aided tremendously in spreading the word to the community.
All in all, I sit here writing this blog post with an irreversible smile on my face. Let’s ensure that THE LAST SURVIVOR continues to see the light of day, as we here in Dallas are once again witness to its incredible capacity to affect both hearts and minds.
We woke up yesterday morning to a rave review posted on the DIFF website by Bridgette Poe. We cannot thank the Dallas community enough for embracing us so whole heartedly.
Another eventful day for the Righteous Team at DIFF. We started the day at a panel discussion on adapting books to film, then hit the town to promote the film, passing out flyers, putting up posters, and talking to local Dallas folks about the film.
As we move into the 12th day of Genocide Prevention Month, our friends at the Save Darfur Coalition have been keeping us up to date on the news coming out of Sudan:
“After months of speculation and intrigue, polls opened across Sudan on Sunday morning. Many Sudanese turned out to exercise their right to vote (for the first time in 24 years), despite the opposition boycotts and precarious security situation…As expected, there have been reports of significant confusion about the multiple ballots. Numerous other logistical challenges have presented themselves, not atypical for an election in a developing nation. There have been no major reports of significant or organized violence thus far.”
Stay tuned with us as new developments continue to unfold.
Yesterday was also Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, worldwide and we joined the local Dallas community in honoring this special day at a large synagogue in the Dallas suburbs. The tribute was quite moving – beginning with a procession of the remaining Holocaust survivors in Dallas – and ending with the vital message of promoting activism within the community.
Sam, Thomas and I are all donning bracelets with the word “Upstander” on them, the central theme of the evening’s event, which focused on those who stood up to do good in the face of evil. The theme really hit home for the RP team, as THE LAST SURVIVOR profiles four survivor advocates who epitomize what it means to be an Upstander!
It is with this in mind that we launch the first installation of our upcoming new media series called the Survivor Project, featuring Holocaust Survivor, Joe Sachs. As we continue the days of Remembrance and commemoration, Joe’s leadership and activism continues to inspire us all.
That’s all for now . . . Press junket in an hour…Red Carpet walk in 5… T-Minus 6 hours to The Last Survivor screening!
Over and out,
Michael, Tom and I arrived yesterday afternoon here in Dallas, and it has been non-stop action ever since. Our first screening sold out nearly a week ago, and our second screening has only 10 tickets remaining. There is lots of buzz around The Last Survivor!!
Students from Plano High School’s STAND chapter have volunteered to assist us throughout the week and tonight we will be attending an event for Yom Hashoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, another sponsor and advocate for the film. The support we have gotten from the activist community here is amazing – people just want to rally around the cause and help out in whatever way they can!
Yesterday was spent preparing press and outreach materials, and today we will finally get out of the Hotel Palomar and see some other films. Dallas is beautiful; the people are nice and hospitable, the weather is warm and sunny, and the overall atmosphere is very encouraging.
I look forward to reporting back with more news from the festival. Tomorrow night we walk the red carpet!
Over and out from Dallas-
In a week’s time, we will be venturing to Dallas, Texas to partake in the Dallas International Film Festival. Dallas will be one of the first of many stops on a long and hopefully fruitful festival run. Over the past week, The Last Survivor has accrued more fans and supporters here in Florida. As I sat in a packed Synagogue and screened the sneak preview of our film, I looked around at the faces of the many people in attendance. Young, middle-aged, and old, they were all in awe of what they were viewing.
This reminded me of the important work that we are doing – spreading the message of hope – in a subject matter that so often feels devoid of that crucial light at the end of the tunnel. When the sneak preview was over and the lights went up, hands went up as well; people are eager to learn about past and current Genocides, and we are providing the necessary tools to begin conversations.
As the sun sets here in Aventura, Florida, and a beautiful holiday weekend comes to an end, I am grateful that I can help propagate the message that The Last Survivor carries with it. This is only the beginning of what will be an incredible life long journey.
Happy Holidays to all. Dallas: here we come.
This weekend The Last Survivor screened at the Oxford Film Festival. It marked the first official film festival that the Righteous Pictures team has attended. Hopefully, it will turn out to be the first of many. The Oxford Film Festival, which started in 2003, brings independent filmmakers from across the country to Oxford, Mississippi to showcase their work and interact with the audience at a number of social events.
The Last Survivor was extremely well-received at Oxford. So much so, in fact, that we were presented with the “Hoka” Award for Best Documentary Feature. What an honor. And as if that was not excitement enough, just this morning we were informed that The Last Survivor also won the Audience Award for best overall film in the festival. A positive first step in the festival tour!
Check out the Oxford’s page for a little more information: Oxford Film Festival 2010