Smile Little Ladybug | JFI Online Short: September 2022

The Jewish Film Institute is pleased to present Smile Little Ladybug as the Online Short of the Month for September. Read a short interview with director Laura Asherman.

About the film: Inspired by her grandfatherʼs escape from Nazi Germany, Ms. Ladybug is a second generation clown who strives to make the world a better place.

Jewish Film Institute: Tell us about the genesis of this film. What inspired you to tell this story?

Laura Asherman: My producer, Michele Lombardi, connected with Andrea ‘Miss Ladybug’ Zoppo while volunteering at a children’s garden in Atlanta. A few years later, Michele and I were hiking together when she pitched me a documentary about Miss Ladybug and her eccentric, lovable, family. At that point in my own life I was trying to become more connected with my Jewish heritage (and of course, I was delighted by intergenerational clowns) so the concept piqued my interest.

JFI: What was your biggest challenge making the film?

LA: Easily, the most challenging aspect of telling this story was condensing three generations of complex personal narratives into one sixteen-minute documentary. Any filmmaker knows that you have to kill your darlings, and for me, the hard decision was not to include more of Andrea’s mother, Barbara, because I find her path to clowning so fascinating. Ultimately, it made the most sense to focus on Tikkun Olam and Herbert’s influence on Andrea’s life path.

JFI: What are you working on now?

LA: I’m in my final year of an MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University, where I’m working on two new documentaries. The Lotus Blooms in Murky Waters documents artist Lynn Marshall Linnemeier while she designs and paints a mural addressing violence against women in her community. My thesis film is a partially stop-motion animated documentary about plastic pollution told from the perspective of a cockroach. Both are set to debut in 2023.

About the Filmmaker: Laura Asherman is a documentary director, cinematographer, and burgeoning animator living in North Carolina. As the owner of Forage Films, Laura has directed and shot films for clients, including PBS, VICE, and HBO, as well as award-winning independent documentaries. She is drawn to making character-driven films featuring quirky people, family legacy, and corporate greed. In her current work, Laura seeks to find the levity in typically dark subject matter. She is currently getting MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts at Duke University.

JFI Online Shorts features one new short film each month from emerging and established filmmakers. Since 2009, JFI has showcased over 100 online shorts and garnered worldwide views over 2 million on the JFI Youtube channel. Learn more at



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Jewish Film Institute

Jewish Film Institute

The Jewish Film Institute, based in San Francisco, champions bold films and filmmakers that expand and evolve the Jewish story for audiences everywhere.