Blessings: Roommates in Jerusalem

Five years of shooting bring us an intimate picture of a decades-long relationship between two remarkable women: Shulamit Cohen, 74, and Ilana Blumenfeld, 66. They are developmentally challenged roommates at Magen, an assisted-living facility in Jerusalem. Paula Weiman-Kelman's film opens a unique window into the lives of people who are typically removed from the mainstream. As they rise to the ordinary challenges of daily life, we come to understand something of their spiritual depth as human beings. A particularly interesting element of this story is the special relationship between the Magen community and Kol Haneshema, a progressive synagogue in the neighborhood led by the filmmaker's husband, Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman.
Paula Weiman-Kelman is a videographer and documentary filmmaker. She specializes in "moving portraits" and family histories as well as in documenting life (from births to funerals) in an intimate way. Her portraits of teenagers filmed in Hong Kong, Beijing and Jerusalem have been broadcast on the prize winning Planet Video TV series. Her full-length documentary, RITES OF PASSAGE: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF ALICE SHALVI was an ABC TV Network Special and was screened in the Berlin Jewish Film Festival in 2000. Weiman-Kelman has traveled extensively documenting life around the world. She filmed the first Bar Mitzvah in Beijing, a fundraising film for an orphanage in southern China, a promotional piece for a tour company in Ching Mai Thailand. She accompanied the JERUSALEM THEATRE Group to Poland to document their participation in an international theatre festival in Lodz and accompanied members of the troup to Auschwitz. She documented events leading up to a Seder in Dharmsala India and befriended an American born Buddhist nun who allowed her to film initiation classes. She has filmed the Dalai Lama and the pope as well as countless young people preparing for their Bar Mitzvahs. Her documentary, BLESSINGS: ROOMMATES IN JERUSALEM premieres in the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in July 2003. During the fall of 1999 Weiman-Kelman co- taught a documentary film course bringing together Israeli and Palestinian women through video production. Born in Philadelphia in 1953, Weiman-Kelman made Aliya in 1976. She is married to Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman and the mother of three Sabras. DOCUMENTARIES PRODUCED, DIRECTED AND FILMED BY PAULA WEIMAN-KELMAN BLESSINGS: ROOMMATES IN JERUSALEM (46 min., Israel, 2002) A warm and funny documentary accompanying Ilana and Shulamit, two developmentally disabled older women through their lives, culminating in their Bat Mitzvah in a reform synagogue in Jerusalem. RITES OF PASSAGE: THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OF ALICE SHALVI (59 min., Israel, 1999) A richly textured intimate documentary portrait weaving together home movies, archival footage and Alice’s splendidly told tales. Screened in the Berlin Jewish Film Festival, Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival. BROADCAST AS AN ABC-TV SPECIAL FROM BLACK HAT TO BASEBALL CAP (60 min., USA, 2000) Two hundred Kellmans converge for a family reunion and discover the bonds that allow love and acceptance between ultra-orthodox and reform. THE SCHUERS (70 min. Israel and USA, 1999) A documentary chronicling the life and work of philanthropists Dick and Joan Scheuer. CHINA'S CHILDREN (15 min., China, 1997) Life in a school/orphanage in southern China where a handful of rice feeds a child for a week. BEIJING BAR MITZVAH (60 min., China, 1996) Elyse Silverberg, a long time resident of Beijing, is determined that every detail of her son’s bar mitzvah feels authentic. She teaches a Chinese jazz band to play klezmer. She teaches the club cook to make challah. It works! PORTRAITS OF ARTISTS PRODUCED, DIRECTED AND FILMED BY PAULA WEIMAN-KELMAN Self Portrait: Paula Weiman-Kelman 1995/2002 (Israel 2002) On retreat in Rockport Maine. Far from family and friends. Weiman-Kelman turns the camera on herself. “I love being behind the camera. I don’t like being in front of the camera. But that doesn’t mean I want to be invisible….” (10 min./ Eng. Only) Jordan Wolfson 2002 (Israel 2002) White oil paint - swirl in orange - swirl in brown. Paint becomes the light of Israel on Wolfsan’s pallet. I’m interested in the dialogue with what I see in front of me. There is something about dialoguing with what is outside of me that keeps me from being too self conscious Observe the painter, observe his world. (11 min. / Eng. Only). Inside And Out: The Architecture of Aaron Weingrod (Israel 2001) A wooden boardwalk welcomes us to a lake. Gaudi-like mosaic pillars transform a project renewal neighborhood. A curved kitchen wall embraces a family. Experience how Weingrod's work reshapes the world reconnecting inside and out. (12 min./ Eng. Only) Images: Art by Edna Miron - Wapner (Israel 1995) The Japanese Master finally consents to initiate Miron-Wapner into the secrets of Sumi-e painting. This technique transforms Hebrew calligraphy for the artist and her audience. (12 min./ Eng. Only) SOLO DOCUMENTARY SHOOTS SEDER IN DHARMSALA (14 hours, India, 2001) An unedited 14-hour meditation on the relationship of young Jews to Buddhism and Judaism in the home of the Tibetan exile in India. JERUSALEM THEATER GROUP IN LODZ POLAND (15 hours, Poland, 2000) Behind the scenes of the Jerusalem Theatre Group’s performance of SOTAH in the international theatre festival in Lodz. Includes sidetrips to Varda Ben Horin’s father’s birthplace and Auschwitz where Gabbi Lev’s mother had been interned. MAIREAD CORRIGAN MAGUIRE IN ISRAEL ( 3 hours, Israel, 2001) A Nobel Peace Prize winner from Belfast comes to bear witness to home demolitions in Israel and the territories. PEACE COUNCIL VISIT IN ISRAEL (6hours, Israel, 2000) Representatives of world religions meet in Jerusalem to learn about the region and pray for peace. THE DALAI LAMA IN THE HOLYLAND (3 hours, Israel, 1999) His holiness speaks to various groups in Jerusalem and Tiberias. TREKKING FROM CHANG MAI (3 hours, Thailand, 1996/97) Which will give out first - my legs or my video battery. BIRTH IN JERUSALEM (12 hours, Israel, 1995) Labor and birth. From 2008 Festival: Director, Israel Paula Weiman-Kelman is a Jerusalem based documentary filmmaker. Eyes Wide Open is her most recently completed project. Previous films include Rites of Passage: The Spiritual Journey of Alice Shalvi which was broadcast in the United States as an ABC TV Network Special. Her film Blessings: Roommates in Jerusalem premiered in Israel at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, in Europe at the Berlin Jewish Film Festival and in the United States at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Other filmed portraits include In His Own Words: Ralph I, Goldman, a Life of Jewish Communal Service (broadcast on the Israeli Biography channel), and The Road from Merhavia: The Life of Aviezer Ya'ari. Weiman-Kelman has traveled extensively documenting life around the world. She has filmed the Dalai Lama and the Pope, as well as countless young people preparing for their Bar Mitzvahs. Weiman-Kelman is currently promoting Eyes Wide Open. She is also involved in a feature-length portrait of the Venerable Dhammananda, the first female ordained Buddhist monk in Thailand. Born in Philadelphia in 1953, Weiman-Kelman made Aliya in 1976. She worked as a curator of Jewish and Israeli Film at the Jerusalem Cinematheque from 1984-1994. She was a member of Kibbutz Gezer from 1977 - 1983. Weiman-Kelman is married to Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman and is the mother of three. *Paula Weiman-Kelman will attend the screenings of Eyes Wide Open at the Roda Theatre in Berkeley, on Saturday August 9th and at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center (JCC) on Sunday August 10th.
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