February 12-14, 2008

Remembrances and Past Lives

San Diego- My latest film, DIARY OF NICLAS GHEILER, is to screen in San Diego and the festival organizers invited me to come down for the event and do a little Q&A. This was an exciting trip for me since it will be the first time Andrea comes with me to a film festival out of town.

Click to Listen or Read a preview of my film posted on KPBS San Diego.

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival is expertly run and we were picked up at the airport and taken for a little sight-seeing which included a visit to Hotel Del Coronado, one of the oldest hotels in the West and made almost entirely of wood. This hotel is famous for being seen in many movies and is haunted by a woman still searching for her lover. When we arrived there, I could have sworn I saw a strange person peering outside the top window.

Out hosts for the day, Melissa Bartell and Sandra Neborsky were lovely taking us around SD, which I had not been back to for about 20 years when I went to school at UCSD.

After lunch we went to our hotel which was located about 100 yards from the movie theater and was across the street from UCSD. From outside our window, I could see the rear window of a small apartment I used to live in when I was a freshmen. The memories soon began to flow back to me and it felt a bit surreal returning after all these years. Andrea and I walked over to the LaJolla AMC and were greeted in the lounge for filmmakers and producers. They served a healthy variety of foods including bagels and chocolate cake.


The SDJFF is produced by Sandra Krause and organized and handled by Sandra Silverstein, Cyndi Quisenberry, Ilise Bush, Judith Friedel, Helen Flemming and Francine Ginsburg. My film was to screen first followed by AS SEEN THROUGH THESE EYES, by Hillary Helstein. Maya Angelou did the narration for this excellent film about the art that was created by adults and children during the Holocaust. The film was moving and very enlightening and, coupled with my film, suggested the power of art to be a source of scourge and a source of salvation. It was also kind of fun that Guy Johnson, Maya's son and a friend of mine, appears in my credits just before the start of AS SEEN.

After the screenings we were introduced by Francine and Hillary and I went up front to handle questions from the audience. The best part of making a film is hearing the feedback from strangers and I was gratified and honored to have heard so many nice things about my film from many people, as well as a few who lived through the Holocaust. I felt close to a time in history when I wasn't even born yet I felt my film was authentic to the spirit of the time and told a story that seemed to resonate to many people in the audience.

Click to read a review of the film by audience member, Donald Harrison, editor and Publisher of San Diego Jewish World.

I can't remember what questions were asked of me but I remember asking everyone to applaud the festival producers, staff and volunteers and also said something about the sad state of funding for the arts in California. All in all the QandA went well and Francine later told me it was one of the better sessions they've had at the festival. I will particularly remember the woman who stood up to ask a question as a "Holocasust survivor". One can only stand in awe of people who went through the most hellish of experiences and still were able to make a life for themselves despite such tragedies. It makes me realize how much of my trivial complaints and whining seem ridiculous in retrospect.

Andrea helped sell a few DVD copies of the film and was very helpful to me during this trip. It is a relief to not have to remember to do every little thing related to this film.

Afterwards, Andrea and I were taken out to dinner at Barbarella's in downtown LaJolla by our guest for the day, Silvana Christy and her friend. We enjoyed pizza and chicken and some lovely wine and conversation about DNA, family histories and the demands of belonging to one paricular culture or another.


Andrea and I decided to watch some more films at the fetival but first chose to visit UCSD campus. First of all, much of San Diego had changed since I lived there. Downtown SD is cleaned up and now has several jazz clubs and places to eat in the Gaslamp quarter. UCSD, in the old days, was a campus of 4 colleges and about 12,000 students. Now it has something like 6 colleges and twice as many students and walking around the campus I could see entirely new buildings mixed with some of the old concrete/wood fiascos that littered the campus in my day.

We ate breakfast at the still existing CLUB MED cafeteria and strolled through the trees and gazed at the students, some looked very much like many of the people I used to know back then.

We stopped by the Sun God sculpture and entered my college Muir. It pretty much looked the same and I began to tell Andrea several rated PG stories of my life back in college. We looked into a few lecture halls and saw how nearly every student had a laptop. Some of them weren't even playing a game while the professor spoke! Astonishing!

We went up to my first year college dorm called Tenaya Hall and up to C-House were I lived in C-86 on the 6th floor. The floors were nicely carpeted and the furniture and wall paint looked fresh and new. Back in my day, the rug was torn up and the furniture so old and ugly, we...errr...somebody used to throw them off the balcony every saturday night. I guess school officials took the hint.

We walked quietly into the section I used to live in and to my surprise, the door of my old dorm was open and I could see two bunkbeads and several high-speed wires crisscross the floor. I lived in that dorm with only one other person back then by the name of Gus. Now I guess they have to squeeze in 4 to a room to accomodate everyone.

I looked though my photo album and found a 23 year old(!!) picture of me in front of my dorm room wearing a SAM hat and a toga and a tie. The girl in the picture is Carol Hagen, a friend of mine and another friend Mike Knapp. Mike and I were both founders of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity then and I think we did it because it sounded like fun at the time. Little did either of us realize that the SAMs would continue to live and thrive to this day at UCSD.

Some time during our stay, I received a call at the hotel from "Travis", a current UCSD student and member of SAM, Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity....a fraternity I helped founded back in 1985 while a student at UCSD. He and a few of the boys wanted to meet me for dinner as well and told them we could meet for a short drink as I had some other things to attend to as well. We met at Rock Bottom brewery and restaurant just across from UC Med and I shared with them my memories of how the fraternity was founded and what the early days were like.It was fun telling them what I did as the first pledgemaster and encouraged them, rather "ordered" them to get themselves invited back to San Diego some time in the future in the field of their choosing. I didn't stay long with them since I was the only one drinking a martini and the rest had coke and water. We were very far apart in temperment and outlook but I could see in each one of them a little bit of my old self and some of the friends I knew back then.

While still at UCSD, I took Andrea to one of the places I spent a lot of time at. The Media Center or MCC located between Third College and Mur was where I learned to make videos. I spent many hours in the editing room and enjoyed the help from some of the staff including Bill and Jim who were still at UCSD doing great work helping students figure out technical issues. I wish I had a picture of them. :(

We ended out time at UCSD with a beer at "The Pub", a favorite watering hole of students after a long week of studies. It actually closed during my last year at UCSD and due to an outcry reopened a few years later. The tables outside were the same as 20 years ago and nothing changed much. A young woman next to us was fretting over a purse she lost at The Pub the night before and I seem to recall losing my wallet there a couple of times.

All in all, a nice getaway and a very good film festival experience for both of us. I'm hoping we will get to do a few more of these in 2008. Thanks to everybody from the SDJFF for a great time and for your generosity!


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