Tag Archives: New Jersey

On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

16 Nov

November 9, 2016 | Love Thy Nature | West Long Branch, NJ

Let’s heal together, rejoice, and roll up our sleeves. We got a lot of work to do.

November 9th, 2016. Like most Americans, I had little sleep that night and woke up to what felt like a living nightmare. The political candidate that was running a bullying campaign based on disrespect for immigrants, racial division, misogyny, and a number of other positions that were an assault to our most basic American goodness and values won the electoral vote – becoming the 45th president of our beloved country.

Like millions of people, I was in shock and all I wanted to do was to crawl in a fetal position or cry on the phone with loved ones. But instead, I had to fulfill my obligation to pack, hit the road, and prepare for my next Love Thy Nature screening (at Monmouth University) with a mission to inspire yet another audience.

Inspire an audience??!! That seemed like an impossible task, when I couldn’t stop myself from weeping the entire road trip from Blue Bell, PA to Eatontown, NJ! “One step at a time, Sylvie,” I kept telling myself.


The weather prediction had been sunshine and yet, it was pouring rain – a perfect symbolism to what happened with the election.  When I arrived at Monmouth, the Center of the Arts director, Vaune Peck, came to greet me and I was comforted by the realization that the school team were in a similar mental state as my own. So, we talked politics before the event and managed to giggle over a social media image where our president-elect (known for bragging about sexually assaulting women) was groping the statue of liberty.

I didn’t have a high expectation in terms of turn out, thinking our core audience would be depressed and unwilling to leave the comfort of their homes. Let’s face it, this is a film about love of nature, self and each other; ecological awareness; and being the change we wish to see in the world – ideals that were defeated at the ballot.


To my surprise, more than 50 people attended our Love Thy Nature event, even as a sense of gloom in the room was very palpable.  Some had mentioned that they came to the screening because they couldn’t stand being home that night… it was too painful. So, after the screening, I felt I had to validate people’s feelings before any Q&A about the film. I encouraged our audience members to take time to grieve, feel their emotions, connect with loved ones, and connect with Mother Nature as she’s a potent healing balm.

I also reminded them that human evolution is not a straight line. We take steps forward but we also take steps back. But as Martin Luther King wisely said, “The long arc of history bends towards justice.” If we think about it, it was less than one hundred years ago that women didn’t even have the right to vote, less than 200 years ago that people were enslaved just because of the color of their skin, and 3,000 years ago the Greek political elite was fighting the advent of democracy, as individual freedom seemed too chaotic. So, in the big picture, love always wins.


But we can’t deny it: if what was promised on the campaign trail comes to fruition, the next few years will be grim – even dangerous – for America and the world in many ways. But if we take the time to grieve now and nourish our spirit through connection with each other and nature, we will find the strength to organize and fight for this precious country and planet of ours. Let’s heal together, rejoice, and roll up our sleeves. We got a lot of work to do.

Wishing you nature.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker, Sylvie Rokab


On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

24 Oct

October 17, 2016 | You Belong to Me | West Long Branch, NJ

“Those men and women who lived through the 1940’s and 50’s told stories of discrimination they experienced in the north which were much more subtle than in the south yet still as memorable and hurtful with the pain still fresh.”


Growing up at the New Jersey shore, I was thrilled to screen You Belong To Me at Monmouth University at their beautiful Pollack Theatre. Things have definitely changed on campus during my lifetime including new buildings and athletic fields.

While it seemed like most of the audience consisted of my family and friends and I was so proud to show them the result of my work on a big screen, I was jolted back to reality during the question and answer session by the realization of how the film resonated with the African Americans in the audience. Those men and women who lived through the 1940’s and 50’s told stories of discrimination they experienced in the north which were much more subtle than in the south yet still as memorable and hurtful with the pain still fresh.
Among those in the audience who stayed long after the Q and A session was William L. Brown who is a producer of Cultural Diversity Arts Programs. I was so struck by him because he actually prayed during the Q and A – a prayer in part of thanks for those white people in the audience. Also in the audience was a director who is working at a Manasquan theatre about to present a production of A Raisin In The Sun and he wanted to see You Belong To Me to get a feel for the times and for inspiration.
We all ended up taking a group photo and laughed and left with a hope for future generations.

Vaune Peck, the Director of the Center of Distinction for the Arts facilitated our event.

Post provided by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Jude Hagin

On Tour: West Long Branch, NJ

17 Oct

September 22, 2016 | Sweet Dreams | West Long Branch, NJ

“It added a special layer to have Eugenie there in person to answer questions about her own experience both in Rwanda and in the US.”

At Monmouth University, Vaune Peck, director of Center for the Arts put a lot of effort into drawing a large and diverse audience for the film and also invited Rwandan genocide survivor Eugenie Mukeshimana to join me in the Q&A afterwards.  Eugenie was a young adult who gave birth to her first child while in hiding during the genocide. When she emigrated to the US in 2001 to pursue a degree in social work she was surprised how little most people knew of the Rwanda genocide. In 2010 she founded the Genocide Survivors Support Network (GSSN) to provide support for other survivors living in the US and to educate communities about the genocide.


The audience was moved and inspired by the film and had many questions afterwards. It added a special layer to have Eugenie there in person to answer questions about her own experience both in Rwanda and in the US. Eugenie had seen Sweet Dreams when it first showed at the United Nations – but drove all the way from Baltimore to be part of this screening and conversation.

Post submitted by On Screen/In Person filmmaker Lisa Fruchtman

On Tour: Long Branch, NJ

25 Apr

April 11, 2016 | Deaf Jam |Long Branch, NJ


Interior Pollack

The projection and sound at the Pollak Theatre was superlative!

For the Q+A, I was very fortunate to be joined by Liz Wolter, the driving force from Lexington School featured in the film.  Liz is also the author of the companion guide for the Deaf Jam educational DVD. She is the kind of teacher that every parent hopes his or her child is fortunate enough to work with.

We fielded questions concerning the current climate of deaf education. The most recent out cry had just occurred a few days prior to the screening when the A.G. Bell Association released a statement negating the importance of sign language acquisition for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children. 

In a recent Washington Post column, (Polus, March 28, 2016), Nyle DiMarco, the popular star of “America’s Next Top Model” and now, a favorite contestant on “Dancing with the Stars”, shared his views that there are many deaf children who are being deprived of their own language, American Sign Language. He also shared that he recently established a foundation, the main goal of which is to improve deaf infants’ access to ASL. A firestorm was ignited when the Alexander Graham Bell (AGB) Association characterized the comments of Mr. DiMarco, who is profoundly deaf himself, as spreading myths about the benefits of American Sign Language and in so doing they alleged that the need for American Sign Language had diminished for children who are deaf. Additionally they alleged that the use of ASL is declining dramatically and that “the window for a deaf child to acquire listening and spoken language is much shorter than the window in which ASL can be acquired.” Ironically, no actual research was cited.

A detailed editorial favoring bilingual education and siting factual evidence contrary to the AG Bell association’s statement was published by a reporter for the Gallaudet Publication – The Buff and Blue.

While Deaf Jam is not a political film, it does showcase the profound attributes of ASL practice. Of note, was that the audience at Monmouth was entirely hearing and the discussion regarding the on-going controversy over best practices for deaf education was new for everyone.

Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Judy Lieff.

On Tour: Long Branch, NJ

8 Mar

March 7, 2016 | REBEL | Long Branch, NJ

I arrived on a beautiful afternoon on the New Jersey seashore and took a stroll on the beach before heading into Monmouth College for the evening screening of REBEL today.


Monmouth University has a brand new theater and was ready to play REBEL.


They screened the whole film with the Spanish language captions in case there were Spanish speaking audience members.

While I didn’t get questions in Spanish, many of the audience members wanted to know if Loreta had living relatives.  I told them about Andrene Messer, the Scottish descendant of Loreta’s last husband, a famous Scottish geologist who came to America and swept Loreta off her feet after the Civil War.  Andrene contacted me while I was in post production for REBEL and sent me numerous articles about William Beard and Loreta, his last wife.   According to newspaper clippings, they had a son named Valdemar Beard .


Someone asked me during the screening if I had tried to find where Loreta was buried.  Sadly, research about women of the time often involved knowing who they had married and whose name they had taken because they dropped their maiden names and one usually found them through their husband’s name.  In addition, since she had a Spanish name, Loreta switched the way she wrote or referred to herself between Anglicized and Spanish-language versions of her name, and she married multiple times, so she needs to be researched under multiple variations of her first name,  such as Lara, Laura, Laurita, Loreta, etc. and then under her husband’s last name – and she had several.

Neither I nor any of her researchers have found an obituary or know where she was buried or died.  Perhaps as genealogical research has become more ubiquitous more people will seek her out and eventually we will find a tombstone or an obituary.  The last I know of her was that she was speaking out in favor of Cuban independence and gave a speech to Congress urging them to intervene to “free Cuba from the Spanish yoke,” as they were still a Cuban colony at the turn of the twenty first century.  Her printed speech delivered to Congress is available the the N.Y. public library under her name “Madame L. J. Velazque”

4Director at Pollak Theater Monmouth

Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Maria Agui Carter.

On Tour: Long Branch, NJ

29 Feb

February 12, 2016 | Winding Stream | Long Branch, NJ

Monmouth University’s Pollak Theatre! The last stop on the two-week On Screen/In Person tour.


Another stimulating evening in another spectacular venue. It was nicely emceed by film student Anthony Capetti of the Monmouth Cinema Club who crafted a really terrific introduction pulling together elements of my bio that really explained my interest and affinity for music documentary.


The Q & A was quite extensive and I enjoyed the depth of the questions. At the end of the evening I met a great group of people who were from the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation, an organization committed to music history and education. They sponsor scholarships for students studying these musical genres and were really enthusiastic about the film’s potential to teach. It was a nice coming together of like-minded music lovers.


I also got to meet Mame Green, a New Jersey native who is involved with the Salmagundi Club of New York City, a long-standing American arts organization going back to the 1870s. She and I enjoyed talking so much she offered to give me a late night tour of the nearby Asbury Park boardwalk, a great historic site in its own right and – for rock & roll lovers – the place immortalized in the title of Bruce Springsteen’s debut album “Greeting from Asbury Park, NJ.”


It was bitter cold (the touted polar vortex was clearly on its way) but well-worth braving to see the remaining boardwalk buildings (most notably the Asbury Park Convention Center) and to marvel at the remains of the old casino and carousel. As an exercise in urban archeology this would be hard to top. And the dark, cloud dappled sky, the white noise of the waves, the faint twinkling of lights on a distant fishing boat, and the sound of music emanating from local boardwalk bars mixed with our conversation in the best possible way.


Afterward we stopped for a drink at the Langosta Lounge, a local scene with lots of revelers. Upon entering the club I turned to look at the stage and there was the embodiment of the Carter Family’s legacy – a bunch of young musicians playing their hearts out on banjo, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. Americana music is alive and well and living in Springsteen’s New Jersey (among other places).


It’s been a great two-weeks on this tour, made very special by the incredible people I met. Interacting with lovers of all kinds of music, cinephiles, history buffs and those individuals who stretch themselves out of their comfort zone thanks to a natural curiosity – well, it’s a great privilege and honor to have this opportunity to meet them.  Thanks to the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, to my hosts at the seven cities I visited, and to everyone who turned out. Memorable. Gratifying. Eye-opening.


Post by On Screen/In Person touring filmmaker Beth Harrington.

On Tour: Long Branch, NJ

11 Nov

November 5, 2015 | Miriam Beerman: Expressing the Chaos | Long Branch, NJ

11.5.15 photo

11.5.15 photo (2)

Another gorgeous November day and I get to go to the beach! As I stare out at the Atlantic Ocean I think about how fortunate I am to be sharing Miriam’s story in places I never expected. Monmouth University has an 82-year history and a beautiful campus. The Pollak Theatre is vast, and they are showing a fascinating exhibit from Uganda just outside the theatre.

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Julian, who heads up Monmouth’s Cinema Club, meets me beforehand and we chat about all kinds of things, from our favorite movies to today’s cameras. The venue is incredible—the screen is large, the sound is booming and nearly everyone stays for questions afterward. Someone really stumped me about Miriam’s family history. Nice to not have ALL the answers. Vaune Peck, my gracious host at Monmouth, is right. They have great Q & As here.

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After the screening, I meet up with a woman, Tova, who provided me one of the photos for the film. She brings her daughter and grandson, as well as a tremendous artist with a remarkable history named Kenneth Hari. We all dance around the obvious for awhile—no one has done a film on him and maybe I should look into it. Of course, I always say that when there is funding there is a film. So I look forward to perhaps profiling another artist with a unique view of the world. Back home and then on the road again in about 10 days!

Post by OSIP touring filmmaker, Jonathan Gruber.

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