The Jewish Film Institute is proud to feature 2023 Filmmaker in Residence Sergio Maza and his project Echoes of Foreign Films in our JFI Resident Spotlight for the month of October 2023.
About the Film: From the 60s and for six decades, Dan and Toby Talbot, a Jewish couple from the Bronx, were pioneers in exhibiting and distributing in the U.S. the most artistic cinema from around the globe. Their work sparked a cinematic revolution, shaping several generations of American filmmakers´ artistic sensibility, from Kelly Reichardt and Ava DuVernay to Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, and Wes Anderson.
Jewish Film Institute: What inspired you to make this film?
Sergio Maza: I grew up in Argentina. As a teenager, I was exposed to independent and foreign cinema by a tiny cable company. Through these films, I experienced the world. They influenced my life so profoundly that I became a filmmaker. While living in New York, I discovered that many of the films were championed by Dan and Toby Talbot, a Jewish couple from the Bronx. And this was the genesis of this documentary.
JFI: Where are you now in the filmmaking process?
SM: We have the support of Film Forum as our Fiscal Sponsor and through private donors and foundations, we have been able to shoot 40 percent of the film. We are currently looking to fund the rest of the movie. We have been able to interview Bernardo Bertolucci, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Michael Moore, Amos Gitai, John Turturro and Isabella Rossellini among many more.
JFI: How is the JFI Filmmaker Residency helping you develop your project?
SM: The JFI Residency has been an excellent support for our documentary. This is my first project in the United States, and the residency has introduced me to a new film community in America. Marcia has done an excellent job with the residency. The speakers from different aspects of the film industry have been of utmost importance, sharing information and knowledge to facilitate and improve our documentaries’ creative and production processes.
JFI: How does this story add to our collective understanding of Jewish life, culture, history or identity?
SM: This documentary focuses on the Talbot’s story and the films they championed to expose the Jewish experience. For more than six decades, they advocated for Jewish films, including Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah to Amos Gitai’s Kippur to László Nemes’ Son of Saul. With Shoah, the Talbots defied norms by widely exhibiting and distributing a nine-hour Holocaust documentary. Ultimately, the Talbots raised one and a half million through donations to show Shoah on PBS, where twelve million people could see the documentary.
JFI: If you could screen your film as a double feature with any film, what movie would you choose and why?
SM: The documentary is built around a retrospective film series. The series focuses on the most influential foreign films that the Talbots helped introduce to America. So I will cheat and list some of the films that will be included in the retrospective: Bresson’s Pickpocket, Ozu’s Tokyo Story, Bertolucci’s Before the Revolution, Godard’s Breathless, Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7, Sembène’s Black Girl, Satyajit Ray’s The Big City, Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun, Wim Wenders’ The American Friend, Tarkovsky’s Stalker, Claire Denis’ Chocolat, Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love.
About the Filmmaker: Sergio Maza is a screenwriter from Argentina who currently resides in New York City. He is a graduate of the National School of Experimentation and Filmmaking. For more than fifteen years, Maza has written professionally for television while also teaching film and writing courses. He has taught at the University of Lanus, the Film College School, and the National School of Experimentation and Filmmaking in Argentina. As a screenwriter, he has worked on several television programs, including fiction and documentary, such as Surprise and a Half, From the Bed to the Living, and We See Faces. He has also collaborated with the Education Ministry of Argentina as a consultant. His experience in academia allowed him to become the director of the Film College School at the age of thirty-five. Maza is also currently working as a director and producer of Supersight, a documentary series focused on the future of augmented and virtual reality, based on the book by MIT scientist David Rose. Also he is producing of Mother of the Missing, a documentary about the Karamojong people in Uganda.
About the JFI Filmmakers in Residence Program: The JFI Filmmakers in Residence Program is a year-long artist residency that provides creative, marketing, and production support for emerging and established filmmakers whose documentary projects explore and expand thoughtful consideration of Jewish history, life, culture, and identity.
Learn more at: https://jfi.org/for-filmmakers