Wiesenthal Center documentary premieres at Plaza Frontenac

Wiesenthal Center documentary premieres at Plaza Frontenac

BY CATE MARQUIS, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

After the Holocaust, the cry of many was “never again.” Yet writer/director Richard Trank titled his documentary film Ever Again. In his new film, Trank details the resurgence of violent anti-Semitism and its connection to international terrorism. Written and directed by Trank, Ever Again explores a disturbing trend — growing anti-Semitism, fueled in a post 9-11 world by extremist Muslim fundamentalists, not just in the Middle East but among Muslims in Europe. The film is narrated by Academy Award winning actor Kevin Costner.

The film is set for a local premiere, at a fundraising event for the Wiesenthal Center, scheduled to take place at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema on Sunday, May 7.

Ever Again is a new documentary film from the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s documentary film division, Moriah Films. The Simon Wiesenthal Center is the international Jewish human rights center, which seeks to preserve the memory of the Holocaust by promoting tolerance and understanding, with education and outreach. They established their Moriah Films division in 1994.

At the beginning of the year, the “Mohammad cartoons” published in Europe led to calls for violence from Muslim extremists, sparking concern about the growing influence of these extremists. “We need to do what we can to foster moderate elements in the Muslim community to counteract this problem,” said Trank in a recent phone interview.

“Ever Again opens in post-WWII Berlin, with Hitler’s prediction that they would rise again in 100 years. But it took less than that,” said Trank, referring to rising neo-Nazi movements, even in Germany.

This may sound familiar to anyone who saw Marc Levin’s documentary film The Protocols of Zion, which looked at the post-9/11 resurfacing of an old hoax and which played in local movie theaters last fall, but Trank says Ever Again covers different territory. “Protocols of Zion focused on the U.S. This film is more international and focuses more on Europe, where the problem is far worse,” said Trank. “Protocols of Zion is more personal, while Ever Again is broader.” Trank said his film looked at the growing extremism in Muslim fundamentalism, and asked questions like whether anti-Zionism was the same as anti-Semitism.

The problem is especially marked in Europe, noted Trank. “In the U.S., no Jew is afraid to wear a yarmulke in public but this is an issue in Europe. Leaders in France have advised people against wearing any obvious religious symbols in public,” said Trank. “The children of Muslim immigrants, in countries like France and Belgium, have resentment, are feeling left out of the economy and discriminated against, and they have become radicalized because they have not been well treated. Muslim fundamentalists in European mosques have encouraged them to blame the Jews and to strike out against Jews in particular.”

Trank has an impressive film resume. Besides a long career in radio and documentary filmmaking, he was the producer of The Long Road Home, a Moriah film which won the 1997 Academy Award for Best Feature Documentary. His other projects for Moriah include Unlikely Heroes, a documentary narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley about seven people who either resisted or defied the Nazis, and In Search of Peace, Part One: 1948-1967, about Israel’s first decades, both of which he wrote and directed. He is currently executive producer of Moriah Films and the executive producer of the films for the Center’s Museum of Tolerance. Presently, he is working on a film about Simon Wiesenthal, who passed away in 2005, which will be narrated by Nicole Kidman.

Moriah Films’ advisors include a number of film industry leaders, such as Dreamworks SKG co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg.

Ever Again was completed in Fall 2005 but the director has continued to update it with new material. A wider theatrical release of the documentary is planned for this summer.

Donors to the May 7 fundraising event for the Simon Wiesenthal Center will get a chance to meet the director, as he is slated introduce the film at the local premiere. The event is being organized locally by a number of sponsors, including the writer/director’s father-in-law, co-chairman Bob Koshner.

“St. Louis is my hometown-in-law,” quipped the director, about his marriage to a native St. Louisan.

Other gala events are also planned for the fundraiser, and entry to the various events depends on your level of donation. Tickets to the premiere range from the $75 Friend level, for one ticket and a pre-film screening reception, up to the $1,000 Premiere Underwriter level, where the donor receives four tickets in addition to the pre-film reception, invitation to the Big Gifts Cocktail Party, a listing in the program at that donation level and a DVD copy of the film, when available.

For tickets or more information locally, potential donors interested in attending the premiere of Ever Again may contact Bob Koshner at 314-878-3607 or Harvey Cotlar at 314-434-4483. You can also contact the Wiesenthal Center at 561-367-0722 or by email at [email protected]

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