The story of the friendship between two Holocaust survivors named Kitty and Ellen.
Interview with Director Leah Galant
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
It’s pretty simple. I love Kitty and Ellen and I wanted others to fall in love with them as well.
Also, I am the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and unfortunately they passed away before I was at an age to fully understand their stories and what they've been through. Five years ago, I heard about Kitty and Ellen - two survivors who started annual trips for women to travel around the world in order to heal and I immediately knew I wanted to meet them. When I finally did meet them, their positive personalities and pure friendship was something I knew I wanted to capture on screen. I began filming with them even though the story arc was not fully developed I kept filming over the course of a few years until it was.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Kitty and Ellen’s friendship is inspiring. They are both hilarious women beyond having such rich histories. During a time when the political climate bears similarities to their past, hearing these stories is more important than ever. In the context of the 2016 election, following Kitty throughout the process gives us another perspective into that night and how she deals with the current political climate. We can all learn from Kitty’s outlook as she can see beyond tactics of division.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
The theme of friendship guiding us through tough times is ever present in this film. Both Kitty and Ellen experience loss, health issues and mobility issues but defy what it means to grow old by keeping a positive attitude and finding the joy in life despite all of its challenges. No one lives a charmed life, and Kitty and Ellen redefine what it means to grow old and take on tough situations with love, support and most importantly, friendship.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Throughout the five years of working on this project it has taken many forms. At first, I created a film about Kitty’s homecoming trip to Vienna with the group of women she travels with. The following year, I had an idea to create the entire film as an animation using Kitty and Ellen’s interviews as the voiceover. Last Fall when I came to the Jacob Burns Film Center as their women filmmaker fellow I decided to combine techniques of animation while following Kitty and Ellen throughout the year and election cycle. The arc of the 2016 election revealed itself later in the process and I ended up using it as a device to structure the story chronologically.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
I have heard that when Kitty and Ellen’s faces first appear on screen that you can feel the magic of their humor and friendship immediately.
With Trump being elected the film also has taken an interesting position as some controversy has risen regarding the election night scene itself and Kitty’s thoughts. Overall, folks have come to appreciate Kitty and Ellen’s wisdom during a time of political uncertainty and it feels great to watch a pure friendship naturally unfold on screen.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I was happy with feedback from folks who can appreciate their stories no matter what political perspective they come from. It was my intent that Kitty’s message of unity and defying division tactics would come through beyond party lines and I am pleased to know most folks have received it that way.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I am hoping folks are intrigued and want to spend some time with these fantastic ladies. Whether that means seeing them at a festival or checking out facebook.com/kittyandellen to stay updated with screening news and events!
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
It is always my hope that my films reach as many people as humanly possible. With that in mind, I would love for more festivals to be able to share Kitty and Ellen’s stories and of course eventually bring their stories into community screenings and made available on a platform with wide visibility. Anyone and everyone who wants to be a part of sharing their stories is welcome to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
First and foremost I want people to fall in love with Kitty and Ellen. I think from there folks can determine what they want out of their stories and message. I do want people to understand Kitty’s philosophy that we can come together instead of being divided and made to fear and hate one another.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
One of the most tense points in the film is when Kitty experiences the 2016 election results. She begins the night with a confident “I think we are going to have a female present.” We have all had experiences of that night from different places in the world and even perspectives. I think while watching this part I am curious to know how folks react to that scene in particular.
Would you like to add anything else?
This project would not be possible without the work and support of some incredible folks in my life. First and foremost the Jacob Burns Film Center in Pleasantville NY which gave me the opportunity to finish this project as their Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellow last Fall while taking the pilot Creative Culture Class. I recommend anyone in the NYC area who has graduated college and are 30 or under to check out this incredible resource and place that has undoubtedly changed my life.
This project was also completed with the support of my mentor, producer and friend - Sean Weiner, director of Creative Culture at Jacob Burns. My mother and artist, Maria Pia Marrella who drew all of the animations. My tremendously talented cinematographer who I collaborate with very often, Peter Quandt. My friend Sarah Browne who composed the original score and my dear friend Stephanie Khoury who was the Associate Producer and saw this project through from inception in our college dorm room to completion this past Spring. Among countless other friends and collaborators who had a hand in this project.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently in production on a new documentary about an incredible bad-ass Holocaust survivor (by chance!) and also a new documentary project about the real stories from those at the forefront of a tense battle over the last abortion clinics in conservative areas of the United States. For more information on upcoming projects email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
### #Kittyandellen #creativeculture
#jacobburnsfilmcenter #sundanceignite #leahgalant
Interview: September 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
Kitty and Ellen
The story of the friendship between two Holocaust survivors named Kitty and Ellen.
Length: 16 minutes
Director: Leah Galant
Producer: Sean Weiner
About the writer, director and producer:
Leah Galant is currently a 2017 Sundance Ignite Fellow and director of the SXSW film The Provider about a traveling abortion doctor.
Sean Weiner is a filmmaker, producer and professor of film at Purchase College, and the director of Creative Culture at the Jacob Burns Film Center.
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): All of the above
Social media handles:
Made in association with: Sally Burns Shenkman Woman Filmmaker Fellowship at Jacob Burns Film Center and Creative Culture at Jacob Burns Film Center
Where can I see it in the next month?
DC Shorts Film Festival September 8th, 10th and 16th.
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival Online Short Film of the Month
Cucalorus Film Festival in North Carolina November 8th-12th.