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Tessa Moran on “Keeping the Kibbutz” (Watch it Now FREE!)

Tessa Moran on "Keeping the Kibbutz" (Watch it Now FREE!)

In her film “Keeping the Kibbutz” – available in its entirety at the bottom of this page courtesy of SnagFilms – filmmaker Tessa Moran explores an Israeli community in transition.

“Keeping the Kibbutz”

Director: Tessa Moran

The full film, “Keeping the Kibbutz” is available free on SnagFilms (and at the end of this article). This interview with Tessa is part of a new series of SnagFilm filmmaker profiles that will be featured weekly on indieWIRE.

The really short synopsis of the film?

Chronicling the changing Israeli kibbutz through its most devoted members, KTK examines the challenges faced by a community in transition.

OK, a little bit more?

Chronicling the changing Israeli kibbutz through the eyes of some of its most devoted members, Keeping the Kibbutz examines the challenges faced by a community in transition. While some members of kibbutz Kfar Giladi faced heartbreak, others found new opportunities, and the kibbutz marched toward and inevitable end. A story about nostalgia, the effects of communal living and the hope for what lies ahead, Keeping the Kibbutz captures the lingering ghost of a movement left behind. 

Featuring never before seen archival footage, some nearly 90 years old, the film juxtaposes the old way of kibbutz life alongside the new privatized reality. Community still exists within Kfar Giladi. The fish farms still flourish, orchards still bear fruit, but they are now run under the auspices of capitalism. The stories of four kibbutz members — Frankie, Kathy, Uzi and Yoram — are interwoven to tell the honest, and often humorous, experiences that present but one face of a much larger shift in the journey of an iconic movement that just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

From print journalism to docs…

As a volunteer at a hospital during high school, I met fascinating people with profound stories to tell but no medium with which to share them beyond their sick beds. The experience inspired me to become a non-fiction writer, which I pursued as a student at Georgetown University. It was there that I produced an award-winning short documentary on the ruby slippers of the Wizard of Oz, which introduced me to the world of documentary film. The art form enchanted me so much that I quit my first job as a print journalist to fly to Israel to produce my first film, Keeping the Kibbutz. After returning from Israel, I went back to print journalism, covering economics for Thomson Reuters by day and editing my films by night. I now produce films independently and for non-profit organizations through my Washington, DC-based production company Eidolon Films. Film is my way to answer the questions I have about the world and to share stories on the human experience with others.

Identifying oneself through community…

The inspiration for “Keeping the Kibbutz” sprouted from my fascination with the kibbutz movement, which I knew nothing about until I met my co-director Ben, who was born on the kibbutz. He told me about this utopia in the Middle East where people lived communally and shared profits equally. This way of life was currently being threatened by a changing tide. Kibbutzim throughout Israel were trading in their socialist model for a capitalist one. Kfar Giladi, the kibbutz on which Ben was born, was just one of the kibbutzim that was undergoing the change. For the people that built their lives there, this meant tremendous upheaval. I wanted to explore the impact of this change . To me, the experience on the kibbutz represented a universal human desire to identify oneself through community. The question at the center of the story: what happens when that community changes?

Patiently documenting the climactic events…

The single biggest challenge in making this film, aside from our miniscule budget, was the task of carefully weaving together four subtle yet complex human stories into one film. There was no one momentous event, like a competition, that could easily frame a story arc. So we had to patiently document the climatic events in each person’s life and discover conclusive elements that would create a dramatic arc.

What’s next…

We are currently working on a half-hour documentary called “The Dinosaurs of H Street.” Willie Carswell is fighting to keep his store alive. After fifty years of business, Men’s Fashion Center now faces its toughest challenges. A sinking economy and a gentrifying neighborhood may spell the end of this once iconic storefront in the African American community of Washington, DC. This work-in-progress documentary is planned for release in late 2012.

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