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Boris – Cycles and Revolutions – Page 2
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Born in the former Soviet Union, Boris came to the United States at the age of 6. An award-winning writer and director, he earned BFA and Post-Graduate degrees in theatre before moving to New York, where he worked as an actor as well as producing and directing several theatrical productions. Upon moving to Los Angeles, Boris made the switch to film and television.   His first short film as writer/director: Unbreaking Up, screened at multiple festivals, winning an award for drama. His second short, "Purgatory, Inc.", is now going out to festivals. Boris is currently writing, directing and producing a feature-length docu/mocumentary Con Artists, now in post-production as well as "Cycles and Revolutions". As an actor, Boris has appeared on numerous TV shows and all levels of film from shorts to studio releases. More at: www.imdb.me/boris and www.matterdoor.com

Nov 112011

Zev Yaroslavsky has never been shy. On a night in 1971, he and his associates rented a motorboat and crossed the LA Harbor, then used toilet plungers to attach their vessel to a Soviet freighter so they could send a message to the Kremlin in spraypaint: “Let Jews Go”.

This week we have scheduled an interview with LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. As a Supervisor, Yuraslavsky has been reelected 3 times, and before that he was a member of the LA City Council, to which he was elected 6 times. Having spent more than half of his life in elected office, Yaroslavsky preceded his political career with political activism, playing a leading role in the movement to free Soviet Jewry by organizing protests, pickets, marches, and occasionally renting boats. While Zev often credits his career in politics on his involvement in the Soviet Jewry movement, he rarely discusses his personal motivations and what he might consider costs and rewards for his often controversial path.

We are very excited for this interview. Mr. Yaroslavsky’s voice will undoubtedly add greatly to the greater story of this film.

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Nov 102011

In this new excerpt from our in-depth interview (read my recap of the interview here), famed civil rights attorney, Harvard law professor, author and political commentator Alan Dershowitz demonstrates the anti-Semitism inherent to Ukrainian culture for hundreds of years and still represented today — just by pulling Ukrainian currency out of his wallet.

Dershowitz and the Hryvnia

You can watch all of our audio and video clips, as well as browse photos on the Media page.

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Oct 172011

Alex Litvak is an up-and-coming Hollywood screenwriter (Predators, The Three Musketeers). Like me, Alex was born in the former Soviet Union. Unlike me, his family wasn’t allowed to leave until after an 11 year battle with emigration.

We sat down to discuss our experiences as Jews from the Soviet Union; dealing with Soviet anti-Semitism, American integration, and the differences and surprising similarities growing up a “Russian” in Reagan-era United States and as a “refusenik” in Soviet Russia.

Here are some highlights from our conversation. Enjoy, comment and please consider SUPPORTING this project.

Alex Litvak

The Three Musketeers PosterAlex’s new film The Three Musketeers, starring fellow Soviet ex-pat Milla Jovovich, opens nationwide this Friday (Oct. 21, 2011).

Oct 052011

One of the driving forces behind this documentary project has been my desire to understand who I am, and to feel a part of something greater than an isolated individual in the United States. I feel fortunate that I am not alone in searching for these answers, or in believing that the quest is important not just for me, but for an entire generation of ex-Soviet emigres.

Recently, thanks to the hard work of Jenny Gitkis-Vainstein, the JAFI representative in Los Angeles, a new program has been established to address the same issues that I have been dealing with — creating a sense of identity and community in the Russian-speaking Jewish population in Los Angeles.  With the partnership of JAFI, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Genesis Philanthropy Group, Jenny has created the “Russian Jewish Community Leadership Program,” of which I am a proud participant.


As part of the program (and this project), I interviewed the other participants about their identity and hope for community. I’ve edited many of them down to a short video capturing their unique perspectives on the unfortunately common sense of displacement many Jews felt in the former Soviet Union, and their hope for a new community here in Los Angeles.

If you can, please support this documentary project through a tax-deductible donation!

You can browse through all of our videos and photos on the Media page.

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Sep 192011

We’re deep into the fundraising portion of production, and our latest venture is to start this IndieGoGo campaign! For those of you who don’t know, IndieGoGo is a crowdfunding website that lets us reach out to all the people that might be interested in helping fund the film. Even better, we get to offer exclusive goodies to those people that choose to help us by donating some of their hard earned money. Plus, since we have fiscal sponsorship, all your donations are tax deductible!

Head over to our IndieGoGo page now to see our pitch video, check out the perks we’re offering, and donate!

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Sep 162011

Thanks to help from several individuals who championed my cause, I finally had the chance to interview Natan Sharansky, former refusenik and current Executive Chair of the Jewish Agency For Israel.  While there were many things I wanted to ask him, we focused on the current situation that ex-Soviet Jews are facing in the U.S. and around the world.

Natan Sharansky became a poster child for the movement to free Soviet Jewry after his application for emigration led to a 13 year prison sentence and a 9 year imprisonment in a gulag. Upon his release, he committed himself to ensuring the survival of the Jewish people and the Jewish state of Israel. He has served in the Israeli Knesset, published three bestselling books, and received both the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As this documentary started with my own search for identity as an ex-Soviet Jew in the U.S. and Natan’s latest book is called Defending Identity“, our interview focused largely on the topics of identity and nationality: both how they relate to each other and to the current ex-Soviet Jewish condition. Sharansky echoed my own fears that assimilation is of of the greatest threats currently facing us, noting the staggering number of Jews lost every day to assimilation and that lack of strong identity is part of the problem.  Natan believes that identity, of which nationality is a part, is more than just a label; it is a historical link and a purpose greater than the self.  He cites his discovery of identity as key to his survival and resistance in the Russian penal system.


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Aug 232011

Question: What do you call a Jewish poet, writer, intellectual, Stalin loyalist and KGB informer?
Answer: A Jew.

Earlier this month, New York’s Center for Jewish History hosted the annual commemoration of the Night of the Murdered Poets. As Nahma Sandrow of Jewish Ideas Daily writes:

On August 12, 1952, thirteen major Soviet Jewish figures were executed for espionage, bourgeois nationalism, “lack of true Soviet spirit,” and treason, including a plot to hand the Crimea over to American and Zionist imperialists.

Recently, Gennady Estraikh (whom I interviewed for this documentary) and Boris Sandler have compiled a new lexicon of over 400 writers silenced in Soviet Russia, finishing the work that poet Chaim Baider spent two decades beginning and giving ex-Soviet Jewry something to celebrate on the anniversary of this terrible day.

Among those executed were writers/poets Itsik Fefer, David Bergelson, and Peretz Markish, whose deaths helped lend the night its name. The date holds heavy significance in the history of Soviet Jewish oppression, beginning some of the worst times for Soviet Jewry, stemming from the 5 Year Plan and the Great Purges, and leading into the so called “Doctor’s Plot.”

A lesson of that night that may be easily overlooked is the equality of all Jews when it came to persecution under Stalin.  Itsik Fefer was not just a Jewish writer and poet, he is also widely known to have been an informant for the KGB.  Fefer was sent by the Soviets to accompany (read: inform on) Solomon Mikhoels, director and lead actor of the State Yiddish Theatre, on his trip around the world as head of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee.  Mikhoels was killed in 1948 in a precursor of things to come.  Fefer may have been trying to curry favor with Stalin, protect his own interests, or may have actually believed in the ideology of the state as so many did.  Regardless of his motivations, when it came down to it, Fefer was still a Jew, still an intellectual, still a threat to Stalin’s attempt to control the minds of the populace, and still subject to extermination.

On a personal side note, when I was in college, I chanced upon a class by a visiting professor from Zurich who taught a course in Russian Jewish Literature.  The visiting professor was Simon Markish.  I’m embarrassed to admit that it wasn’t until nearly 15 years later — after I started working on this documentary — that I learned who he was, and who his father, Peretz Markish was.  By then, unfortunately, Professor Markish had passed away.  MY embarrassment aside, I am grateful to him for introducing me to Russian Jewish literature and the desire to learn more — a desire that has evolved into and interwoven with my interests and pursuits today.

Learn more about the Night of the Murdered Poets on wikipedia and the new compilation here.

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