Aviva Kempner Recognized as December Filmmaker of the Month

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The District of Columbia Office of Motion Picture and Television Development is pleased to announce Aviva Kempner, award-winning filmmaker as its December 2011 Filmmaker of the Month.

Born in Germany and a current resident of Washington, DC, Aviva Kempner has a passion for making films about under known Jewish heroes. She has been making independent films that are theatrically released since 1979. Kempner produced and conceived of the award-winning Partisans of Vilna (1986), about Jewish resistance against the Nazis, and executive produced the 1989 Grammy-award nominated record, Partisans of Vilna: The Songs of World War II Jewish Resistance.

Kempner is also the writer, director and producer of The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (2000), a documentary about the Jewish baseball slugger. The film was awarded top honors by the National Society of Film Critics, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. The film also received a George Peabody Award and was nominated for an Emmy.

She is currently making a documentary about how Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington in establishing more than 5,300 schools for African Americans in the rural South. Rosenwald also gave fellowships to the major Black artists and intellectuals of his day. Kempner also co-wrote and is co-producing the dramatic script Navajo Nation.

Kempner was the recipient of the 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival's Freedom of Expression Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, D.C. Mayor's Art Award, Women of Vision award and Media Arts Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Additionally, Aviva Kempner is the director and founder of The Ciesla Foundation, which is a 501(c) (3) that produces and distributes films to educate the public on social issues of the past and present.

In addition to her work as a filmmaker, Kempner founded the Washington Jewish Film Festival. She has written film reviews for the past 25 years and has written for Washington Jewish Week and The Washington Post. She also lectures about cinema around the country and is a voting rights advocate for the District of Columbia. She is currently a resident of ward three in the District of Columbia.

Kempner is the recipient of the 2011 Washington Jewish Film Festival (Washington Jewish Film Festival) Visionary Award this month. The annual award recognizes and pays tribute to courage, creativity and insight in presenting the diversity of the Jewish experience through the moving image. In conjunction with the award, the WJFF is presenting a retrospective of several of Kempner's films including Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg and The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. Kempner will also present and discuss her newest project, The Rosenwald Schools, at a work-in-progress screening and discussion. Please visit http://www.wjff.org/ for more information about the events.

The DC Film Office launched the Filmmaker of the Month initiative to feature a District-based filmmaker who exemplifies the vast amount of talent and creativity based here in the nation’s capital. The Filmmaker of the Month initiative is part of its mission to elevate the national and international profile of the city’s most talented filmmakers. Previous filmmakers honored include Money Matters director Ryan Richmond, The West Wing producer Jonathan Zurer, Jezebel Filmworks founder Ada Babino, Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden web series creator Otessa Ghadar, People Past and Present: Hillsdale creator Tendani Mpulubusi El, The Woodmans director of photography Neil Barrett, Kettle of Fish writer and director Claudia Myers, and ANACOSTIA web series creator and director, Anthony Anderson.

You can visit the Filmmaker of the Month section to learn more about Aviva and previous Filmmaker of the Month recipients.