Paula Weiman-Kelman had read my columns for years before we finally met in person at a workshop in Israel. We met again when she and editor Ryan Lifchitz got stuck after managing to bring down 300 hours of footage to two hours. After a few sessions, the film was ready for its premiere at the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival.
Film Name: Fringes: New Adventures in Jewish Living
Directors/Producers: Paula Weiman-Kelman and Jonathan Lopatin
Length: 73 min.
Logline: Fringes introduces young Jewish innovators at the Ghetto Shul in Montreal, Stoney Lonesome Farm in Virginia and the Secular Yeshiva in Jerusalem. As these three stories of personal and spiritual exploration unfold, apparent outsiders dwelling on the fringes of conventional Jewish society are revealed as authentic insiders.
Select Festivals, Screenings, Broadcast & Awards
- The Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival, Israel, 2012
- Religion Today Film Festival, Italy, 2013
- Manhattan JCC, USA, 2013
- Bucharest Jewish Film Festival, Romania, 2013
- Budapest Jewish Film Festival, Hungary, 2013
- Vassar International Film Festival, USA, 2013
- Jerusalem, Israel
- Galilee, Israel
- New York, New York, USA
- Gainsville, Virginia, USA
- Montreal , Canada
- Krakow, Poland
- Warsaw, Poland
- Jonathan Lopatin approached Weiman-Kelman with the idea for this film.
- Weiman-Kelman went on six separate solo shooting expeditions outside of Israel, as well as filming too many days in Israel to count.
- After each shoot, she digested material with co-producer Lopatin and editor Lifchitz.
- Filming and editing were integrated until the end. Lifchitz was instrumental in forming the final film and is credited as co-writer.
- Five years, thousands of airline miles and 300 hours of footage later, the film was finished.
- The film was entirely funded by the Lopatin Family Foundation.
Film School: MA from the University of London, School of Education, Film and Television Studies
Other Studies: Weiman-Kelman completed her practical film studies as an external student at Tel Aviv University and the Open University.
For a Living: To supplement income, Weiman-Kelman works on a variety of projects, including family documentaries, profiles of artists and art videos, as well as travel and event videography.
Survival Strategy: People don’t believe Weiman-Kelman when she describes herself as shy. “I don’t have the nerve to open up my mouth unless I have a video camera in my hand. Then I can ask almost anything.” That is why Weiman-Kelman chooses to make films on an intimate scale, solo shooting. Being responsible for the sound, image and content is challenging, but it liberates her from being dependent on a crew. It enables her to move in with her subjects, living daily life with them.
- Eyes Wide Open (60 min., Israel/USA, 2008)
- Blessings: Roommates in Jerusalem (46 min., Israel, 2002)
- Rites of Passage: The Spiritual Journey of Alice Shalvi (59 min., Israel, 1999)
- From Black Hat to Baseball Cap (60 min., USA, 2000)
- The Schuers (70 min., Israel/USA, 1999)
- China’s Children (15 min., China, 1997)
- Beijing Bar Mitzvah (60 min., China, 1996)
Often during filming, Weiman-Kelman was forced to decide whether she was first a person or a filmmaker. “I’m not talking life and death—just should I help out and change a diaper, answer the phone, clear up a marital misunderstanding… Most often I helped out.” Such is the life of the conscientious filmmaker! Being unconditionally present won her the hearts of her characters, even though her kindness was truly selfless.
Weiman-Kelman believes that meaning in life is woven from ordinary details: cooking, driving, conversations. She believes that the story emerges in the editing room. This led her to a shooting ratio of 300 to 1. She said, “Next time I will try very hard to pick characters whose stories and daily lives are more obviously dramatic. And I will sometimes turn the camera off.”
Just weeks before the U.S. premiere of Fringes, the Pew Research Center published the controversial results of a survey titled “A Portrait of Jewish Americans.” The topic of Fringes was suddenly a very hot topic. The most memorable moments came in print. Debra Nussbaum Cohen wrote in Haaretz, “You know the dispiriting picture portrayed by the recent Pew survey of Jewish Americans . . . suburban synagogues in their death throes and apathetic Jews more interested in checking out than opting into Jewish life? You won’t find them in the new movie Fringes.” Jewish Week culture editor Sandee Brawarsky wrote, “Paula Weiman-Kelman’s provocative new film, Fringes: New Adventures in Jewish Living . . . might be a useful postscript to the recently released Pew survey. Individuals like Pablo and his wife, and the others featured in the film, are living full, joyous and meaningful Jewish lives that might go unnoticed by polltakers.”
Will She Relapse and Make Another Film?
As soon as she can figure out which camera to buy, Weiman-Kelman will return to a project she has been working on since 2000, a documentary portrait of three older, inspiring, religious women: the first female Buddhist monk ordained in Thailand, a reform rabbi teaching meditation in New York and a feisty Catholic nun in Pennsylvania.
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