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“Heading Home: the Tale of Team Israel” – Premieres on May 29 at the JCC Manhattan (Seth Shire)

heading home

Baseball, Jews in sports, “Mensch on a Bench,” yarmulkas, yeshiva students, cheer leaders, rabbis, pre-game Purim services at a stadium, anti-semitism, Israel and the Middle East conflict, all come together in “Heading Home: the Tale of Team Israel.”  Ironbound Films, a stellar documentary production company, hits a home run again (sorry, I couldn’t resist) with its latest documentary – a joyous, funny, heartfelt and compelling portrait with a host of great characters.  Even a documentary has to have great characters, and “Heading Home” delivers.

I will admit that despite being part of a Jewish, baseball loving family, I never developed an interest in baseball, or sports in general for that matter.  My thing is film.  Now, having said this, I think that there must be some genetic, Jewish/sports influence as I have always liked movies (narratives and documentaries) about sports and about Jewish issues.  To this end, “Heading Home: the Tale of Team Israel” fired for me, on all pistons, as I know it will for audiences of many different backgrounds.  This documentary’s themes of pride, culture and, most of all, identity, will cut across cultures and resonate with people of all ethnicities.

When it comes to baseball, the State of Israel may not be the first name to come to mind.  After all, there is the stereotype about Jews not being good at sports and, as we learn in this documentary, Israel has only one baseball field…in the entire country!

“Heading Home” is the story of 10 Jewish American baseball players (former big leaguers) who join a team to play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic (which consists of 16 baseball teams, each representing a different country) held every four years.  To play in the WBC, a player has to be a citizen of the country for which he is playing.  To be a citizen of Israel, one has to be Jewish, which means having, at a bare minimum, one Jewish grandparent.  As long as each of these players can provide the proof, they are within WBC rules.  A picture of a grandfather’s grave stone, marriage contracts in Hebrew and a father’s World War II dog tag, with the word “Jewish” embossed on it, come pouring in as evidence.  Despite this, the issue of whether this is just an American team supporting Israel is raised, at one point.

What the film is really about, though, is what happens to these Jewish American players as a result of playing for Israel.  Some of them are religious, others not so much.  However, Margo Sugarman, the team’s Assistant General Manager, explains that the emotional aspect of coming to Israel is “a whole new ball game.”  The documentary also explores how Jews playing baseball might positively affect how people view Jews and, as a result, break down anti-semitism.

Directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger have created a meticulous documentary that follows the team from its qualifying game (to get into the WBC) up to Team Israel’s final game (no spoilers here).  Their cameras are always in the right places at the right times.  Kramer, who also edited the film, keeps the story consistently interesting by balancing interviews with the players, managers and coaches intercut with game footage, media coverage, press conferences, background information, fan reactions and great “off the cuff” moments.  As pitcher Josh Zeid puts it, “No better stage. No better team.  It’s my favorite game in the world.  Why not play?”

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The Anthropologist at Cinema Village November 11 – 17

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Anthropologist Susan Crate (center) and her daughter Katie in “The Anthropologist”

 November 9, 2016. “The Anthropologist,” one of the best documentaries from last year’s DOC NYC, will have its premiere at Cinema Village (22 East 12th Street) on Friday, November 11 and will continue playing at Cinema Village, daily, through November 17. Following the 7:15 pm screenings on Friday November 11 and Saturday November 12 the film’s three filmmakers (yes three!), Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger will conduct Q&A sessions with the audiences.

The Anthropologist” is an award winning documentary from Ironbound Films, a unique company which has produced some fascinating documentaries. Previous documentaries from Ironbound Films include the 2012 documentary “Evocateur: the Morton Downey, Jr. Movie” and “The Linguists” (2008).

The Anthropologist” follows anthropologist Susan Crate on her journeys, over a five year period, during which she visits regions which are threatened by global warming right now, as opposed to areas where global warming may be a problem with which to contend in the future. For example, Susan and Katie travel to Siberia where global warming has caused the permafrost to melt. The resulting water, from the melted permafrost, destroys the production of hay, which is needed to feed cows, an important source of food for the people who live there. Crate is accompanied by her, sometimes reluctant, daughter Katie (who ages from 14 to 18 over the course of the film). Read the rest of this entry

Interview with Seth Kramer – “The Anthropologist” premieres at DOC NYC 11/13/15

Seth Kramer

Seth Kramer

From dodging a charging bull in the mountains of Peru to crossing a sea in a small boat with threatening storm clouds looming overhead in Siberia, Seth Kramer is the Indiana Jones of documentary filmmaking.   Kramer travels the world to make documentaries for his company Ironbound Films, produced in conjunction with his partners Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger.

Ironbound’s latest film, “The Anthropologist,” will have its world premiere on November 13 as part of DOC NYC. In discussing the new documentary Kramer explained, “You are looking at the world from the eyes of a social scientist trying to make sense of the world .” Read the rest of this entry

DOC NYC Presents “The Anthropologist”

Lloyd Kaufman, Daniel Miller, Jeremy Newberger and Seth Kramer

Daniel Miller, Jeremy Newberger and Seth Kramer of Ironbound Films pose with Troma Entertainment president Lloyd Kaufman (left, wearing bow tie).

November 8, 2015. DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary film festival, runs from November 12 – 19 at IFC Center (323 6th Avenue), Chelsea’s SVA Theatre (333 West 23rd Street) and Bow Tie Chelsea Cinemas (260 West 23rd Street). The 2015 edition of DOC NYC will include 104 feature length documentaries. More than 200 documentary filmmakers are expected, in person, to present their films. Special guests will include Hillary Rodham Clinton and Martin Scorsese.

On Friday, November 13 the documentary “The Anthropologist” will have its premiere screening at DOC NYC. The screening will take place at the SVA Theatre at 9:30 pm.

The Anthropologist” is the latest documentary made by Ironbound Films, a unique company which has produced some fascinating documentaries. Ironbound Films boasts no less than three directors – Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger – all of whom work on the company’s movies. Previous Ironbound documentaries include the 2012 documentary “Evocateur: the Morton Downey, Jr. Movie” (available on Netflix) and “The Linguists” (2008). Read the rest of this entry

Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie

(l-r) Lloyd Kaufman, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger, Seth Kramer

(l-r) Lloyd Kaufman, Daniel A. Miller, Jeremy Newberger, Seth Kramer

“Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie” is a compelling, no-holds barred documentary portrait of controversial talk show host Morton Downey, Jr.   His incendiary talk show, “The Morton Downey Jr. Show,” went on the air, on WWOR TV, channel 9, broadcasting from Secaucus New Jersey, on October 19, 1987.  It burned itself out in less than two years.  How outrageous was it?  It was the first talk show to put its audience members, collectively called “The Beast,” through metal detectors.  Knives were confiscated and audience members arrived in costume.  Eccentric characters from New Jersey received airtime long before their current exposure via the cast of “The Jersey Shore.” Read the rest of this entry