San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Filmmaker Q&A: Online Shorts.
Malcolm Green — Edek
Q: What inspired you to make this film?
A: In one sense, I was inspired by everything I see around me, particularly in the UK. I see so many walls and barriers being erected between communities, people becoming isolated from one another, in an atmosphere of distrust, hatred and fear. I see violence amongst the youth, knife crime and gangs. The supreme irony is that we are in an internet age that was meant to connect
those who were previously unconnected and support each other online and off. Yet, in the midst of it all, I saw that music still unites. Music reminds us that we have more in common than we realise. Music has the power to transcend our differences, be they cultural, religious or by gender. And music has a way of reaching disaffected youth in a way other tools cannot. So, on one hand, watching a country in pain inspired me to make a music-based film to help heal. At the same time, I and my team passionately wanted to do whatever We could to build a bridge of film and music between Jews and non-Jews — a bridge of respect, love and hope.
Of course, I was also deeply inspired by the wonderful Janine Webber. Having already made a short film with her and three other Holocaust Survivors, I was deeply moved by her story of Edek. The story of one brave young man, standing up for what was right, even at huge risk to his own life. A man who was Catholic, helping save the lives of Jews from the Nazis. And if Edek was a prospective role model, so was Janine herself. Tirelessly travelling to speak to youngsters, talking candidly of what she lived through and witnessed as a child. But also making her story relevant to today’s issues. And I had seen at first hand the positive impact that Janine, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor, could make. So, I was inspired to introduce as many youngsters as possible to Janine, through our film.
Finally, my other inspiration was hip-hop. Kendrick Lamar. Frank Ocean. Kamasi Washington. A musical genre that had notoriously been on the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ — misogynistic, promoting juvenile gang crime, homophobic — but was now undergoing a process of self-examination and catharsis. And truly great music! I wondered if I could reach out to the hip hop community and establish a kind of ‘ghetto-to-ghetto’.
Q: What was your greatest challenge during the filmmaking process?
A: I guess the biggest challenge was the same as that which faces so many filmmakers — budget. Or rather lack of it. We literally had very little money. But I was lucky to have a team and crew who rose to the challenge and worked tirelessly to bring the film to life. And perhaps, in a way, the constraints stimulated creativity and the need to think innovatively to make Edek possible. This meant filming on iPhones as well as small mirror less cameras, improvising with natural and practical lighting and working with a tiny crew. It also meant turning the filmmaking process upside down, particularly when combining my music and editing workflow. A very new and exciting way of film-making.
Q: Any thoughts you’d like to share about screening this film in a Jewish context?
A: The Holocaust is obviously the most sensitive subject in the Jewish narrative. As filmmaker and a Jew, I feel a duty and obligation to both counter those who would deny the Holocaust, as well as celebrate some of our incredible survivors, who aren’t just witnesses, but are inspirational heroes who have the power to transform lives for good, by engaging with youngsters. Our aim with Edek was to create a film about the Holocaust that reached an audience outside of the Jewish community, who might have only a tenuous awareness of the Holocaust and who might also prove to be fertile ground for antisemitism and racism. So, it quickly became apparent that making a film in the usual tradition of Holocaust related movies would not necessarily work for us. We had to surprise. And emotionally engage in new ways. Even musically, I felt that my musical references had to be contemporary and relevant to social media-absorbed youngsters of diverse backgrounds. So, no sentimental violins or accordions. Instead, a heavy bass, a hip hop beat, an African-American Rapper in Kapoo, and a young teenage singer called Issy. Not the regular Bar mitzvah band. And yet, in the mix, is also the beautiful voice of Cantor Avromi Frelich, blending with the HipHop voice of Kapoo.
Q: What film/media has inspired you lately?
A: Currently, I’ve been watching Chernobyl. Beautifully crafted. Black Klansman was probably one of my favourite recent films, as well as the delightful Faces Places. Musically, I’ve been loving Kamasi Washington, as well as the music station FIP. I’ve also just finished the podcast ‘Intrigue, The Ratline’ by Phillips Sands. Addictive!
Q: What do you do when you’re not filmmaking?
A: I also photograph. Usually portraits. I love to travel, ideally with my family, but often to film. I believe in sport as a positive influence and love cycling. In fact, cycling is my meditation as well as my exercise. I love it. Indeed, I want to write a book and film called BIKEFULNESS — The Cycle Path to a Happier and Healthier Life. I’ve always been interested in politics and spend time working on political content, most recently online films and videos to counter antisemitism. My other passion is music. I have a vinyl collection and love the ritual of listening to music on record, rather than just via streaming. I’m also an avid magazine-reader.
Q: Lastly, gefilte fish: delicious, or disgusting?
A: Fried gefilte fish (with a touch of chraine) is delicious. Boiled (with a carrot) is disgusting.