January 1, 2009 | 8:30 pm
Posted by Laura Bialis
An avid historian and film buff, Laura founded the Foundation for Documentary Projects as a way to fuse her love of history and interest in human rights with her passion for filmmaking. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, her work as producer and director has ranged from documentaries about human rights, poverty, and wartime memories, to commercial projects for clients such as TV Guide Channel and Universal Television. Much of her work has focused on stories of the Jewish people.
Laura produced and directed REFUSENIK, a critically-acclaimed documentary about the 30-year international human rights campaign to free Soviet Jewry. The film was theatrically released in cities across the United States in spring/summer 2008 and is headed for international television broadcast.
REFUSENIK was the first documentary to be produced through the Foundation for Documentary Projects, and was supported entirely by grants (listed at end of this narrative).
VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE: Stories From Kosovo, which Laura co-directed with John Ealer, was the first feature documentary ever made about post-war Kosovo, and premiered at Slamdance 2008. The film is being used by the European Union to train its staff working in the rebuilding of Kosovo.
KEHILLAH: Rekindling Jewish Life In Ukraine, chronicles the partnership between Jews in Boston, MA and Jews in Dnepropetrovsk who are trying to rebuild their community. Laura produced and directed the project, which was commissioned by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.
It was 1999’s TAK FOR ALT – Survival of a Human Spirit (produced and co-directed with Broderick Fox and Sarah Levy) that first brought Laura’s documentary filmmaking to the attention of viewers across the United States. The story of Holocaust survivor turned Civil Rights activist Judy Meisel, TAK FOR ALT tells Judy’s story as a young girl coming of age during the Holocaust. The film accompanies Judy, now in her seventies, back to Eastern Europe to re-trace her wartime journey and also triumphs Judy’s personal journey from Holocaust victim to American Civil Rights activist. The film and aired on PBS in many major markets and was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as “one of the outstanding films of 1999” and was included in their prestigious Contemporary Documentary Screening Series.
TAK FOR ALT and its accompanying curriculum are now being used in public and private schools across the United States to teach the Holocaust, tolerance, and civil rights. Many states have used the materials in district-wide Holocaust education initiatives. TAK FOR ALT has been presented to teachers and educators across the United States, and in Israel at the Yad Vashem Conference for Educators.
Laura’s other work includes Daybreak Berlin, a narrative short based on the wartime memoirs of Ilse-Margret Vogel, a German artist and anti-Nazi resister living underground in Berlin during WWII, and Bread, a short documentary about hunger in Los Angeles, which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
Laura graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in History in 1995, where she focused on wartime and post-war Europe. She also holds an M.F.A. in Production from the USC School of Cinema-Television.
She now lives in Sderot, Israel.
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