Click the photos below to view excerpts from our work.
SONGS OF TRUTH: HOLOCAUST AWARENESS PROJECT
The Songs of Truth: Holocaust Awareness Concert & Conversation Project pays tribute to the talent and resilience of Jewish composers who continued to create music while imprisoned during the Holocaust. Live multimedia concert performances engage audiences in learning about the Holocaust through music, while also inspiring audiences to recognize and resist the rise of antisemitism and nativism today. The project is a Citizen Film collaboration with the San Francisco based Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus with outreach partners at JFCS Holocaust Center of Northern California and San Francisco Interfaith Council.
PROGNOSIS – notes on living
When Oscar-winning documentarian Debra Chasnoff was diagnosed with breast cancer, she turned the camera on herself and her chosen queer family. The result, completed under the direction of Chasnoff’ longtime collaborator Kate Stilley Steiner, is a raw, surprisingly funny portrait of the end of a remarkable life, and how an artist’s vision of tikkun olam shifts as she navigates terminal illness. Supported by the Koret Foundation, PROGNOSIS is being disseminated in tandem with workshops inviting participants to create their own documentary art grappling with grief and the challenge of caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with terminal illness.
WHAT WE CARRY WITH US: REFUGEE STORYLABS
Supported by the Covenant Foundation, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts, this Citizen Film initiative explores connections between the ancient Jewish people’s escape from Egypt and the experience of modern-day refugees. We invited young refugees and older descendants of Jewish refugees to curate their own prized possessions. Then, they collaborated with our team on a series of short films and “show and tell” multimedia events. For example, on Times Square, a shipping container was outfitted with luminous LED screens showcasing “video ads” for refugees’ “memory objects.” Initiative partners include the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley, JCCSF and Frameline.
The ongoing multiplatform American Creed initiative includes a PBS series, short films, and student-led activities promoting an inclusive vision of how to secure and sustain American democracy. Citizen Film’s civic education partners Facing History and Ourselves and the National Writing Project collaborated with PBS to engage many thousands of high school students around the country to view and discuss short films, then create and share photo essay projects exploring the idea that America has a set of foundational democratic ideals. Intergenerational screening+conversation events have been held in 230 public libraries and community centers, including 19 JCCs which facilitated discussion about the intersection of Jewish and American ideals. American Creed films of different lengths have been viewed by well over 1.5M people since 2018.
Potsdam Revisited: Overture to the Cold War, reimagines the function of a modern archive as a powerful convener of public dialogue and historical reflection. This multiplatform multimedia project reached nearly 500,000 people. The project launched with a series of live, multimedia concert events at Lincoln Center and other theatrical venues in 2016. Media from these events was edited into a documentary segment on NPR’s Weekend Edition. Citizen Film also partnered on a media installation at San Diego International Airport, and our short film The Rifleman’s Violin, created for the multimedia archive and live performance, was disseminated by our long-time presenting partner, KQED.
HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT: T-SHIRTS AND JEWISH IDENTITY
15,000+ visitors engaged with this multimedia installation Citizen Film created for exhibition at CJM (July 23 – November 1, 2015). T-shirts expressing contemporary identities are popular, but what can they tell us about how these identities are manufactured and marketed? We invited Stanford professor Ari Kelman explore this question in 14 whimsical videos projected onto a hanging installation of t-shirts in the museum store. See more at www.ethnictshirts.org
WENDY MACNAUGHTON DRAWS CASTRO COMMONS
“Wendy MacNaughton Draws the ‘Castro Commons’ – A Temporarily Permanent Space” was produced for our 2012 collaboration with the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on a “digital sukkah” multimedia installation for the center’s atrium. Citizen FIlm co-designed exhibition, “We are not permanent but we are not temporary” to explore Sukkot’s core themes: the impermanence of life, searching, wandering, and the welcoming of strangers. Produced by Citizen Film in association with 3200 Stories, a program of the JCCSF.
A VIRTUAL SUKKAH
Citizen Film designed a teen-created component of the JCCSF digital sukkah installation in the atrium of 3200 California Street. Citizen Film recruited 100 teen artists to participate. These teens collaborated with Citizen Film, the JCCSF and its Chief Jewish Officer as well as the CJM TAC and Jewish Film Institute to create a series of photos re-interpreting the holiday of Sukkoth. A Virtual Sukkah is a photo project inviting teens & young adults to investigate their surroundings by taking photos that re-imagine the Jewish guidelines for building a sukkah. Participants look for manifestations of rules like this in their immediate environments, then create images and captions to be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms.
Jewish photographers who were outsiders to American culture had an enormous impact in changing how Americans came to see themselves. This collaboration with scholar Deborah Dash Moore—a class and a gallery exhibition—investigates the liberating power of their cameras through the creation of digital stories and project-based learning activities that invite audiences and students to engage with the legacy of 20th Century Jewish photographers and their transformative visions of modernity. It was developed thanks to Citizen FIlm and Columbia University’s New Media in Jewish Studies Collaborative, an innovation tank the Jim Joseph Foundation helped us launch in order to incubate projects at the new, visual turn in Jewish Studies scholarship.
Collaboration between scholar Deborah Dash Moore, filmmaker Sam Ball and the Contemporary Jewish Museum led to a series of creative exercises inspired by pioneering Jewish American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946.). These videos showcased on an interactive iPad exhibition accompanying Alfred Stieglitz photos on an adjacent wall, meditate on the fleeting moments just before Stieglitz transformed transient clouds into permanent works of art.“No two moments are alike,” Stieglitz said. So he photographed clouds as “equivalents” of “profound life experience.”
Citizen Film collaborated with the Jewish Museum of New York and CJM to raise funds and design media for the exhibition Marc Chagall and the Artists of Russian-Jewish Theater 1919-1949. Citizen FIlm’s creative contributions to the exhibitions included media throughout gallery spaces and a centerpiece film exploring the life and times of Yiddish theatre director Solomon Mikhoels.
“Film sequences in the exhibit, including five minutes of GOSET’s King Lear and a brief, incisive documentary by Sam Ball, suggest that Mikhoels merits billing equal to Chagall…” -The Forward.
PEOPLE OF THE GRAPHIC NOVEL
Citizen Film has collaborated with Jewish institutions including the Jewish Museum of New York and Paris’ Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme to explore Jewish contributions to the graphic novel as an art form. Citizen Film’s works include People of the Graphic Novel, a playful introduction from the first “funny pages” to the graphic novel’s seminal artists. This segment was disseminated on public television platforms along with Citizen Film’s co-production profiling French-Algerian-Jewish artist Joann Sfar. Another work that toured in museum graphic novel exhibitions is Pleasures of Urban Decay, an offbeat short-form documentary about Ben Katchor, who has been hailed as the creator of the last great American comic strip. This work was funded by, among others, Stephen Spielberg and Lynn and Julius Kroll.
BRIDGE OF BOOKS
“A Bridge of Books” is an engaging, often funny documentary film produced by Sam Ball for the National Yiddish Book Center’s gallery in Amherst, MA. This short-form documentary chronicles the adventures of an enterprising 23-year-old named Aaron Lansky, who rallied together an international network of volunteers and set out to rescue the world’s Yiddish books. Twenty years and 1.5 million Yiddish books later, he has helped save a rich, diverse, and surprisingly modern literature from oblivion.
ABOUT CITIZEN FILM
Citizen Film is a nationally acclaimed San Francisco based nonprofit documentary company. Our films, place-based multimedia exhibitions, and live multimedia performance and conversation events engage audiences in civic spaces: museums, community centers, public schools, libraries, parks and public media platforms. Our works have been exhibited at many of America’s most prestigious venues –from Sundance to MoMA-NY.
We are storytellers, coalition builders and thought partners, committed to the idea that well crafted media, created in close collaboration with participants and other partners, can inspire audiences to engage in thoughtful reflection, dialogue and action in spaces created to celebrate the diversity and vibrancy of American life.