CHERYL HALPERN

CHERYL HALPERN, a dedicated film Director from United States created masterpiece in documentary film making. A globe trotter and creative personality, Cheryl has been awarded many times. Her awards in Globe Roaming Global Film Festival is an important achievement. We are proud to present a detailed interview with Cheryl Halpern by the FIlm maker and Editor of CINELITA Triptayan Chatterjee.

What are your aims and goals as a filmmaker?
Every day presents an opportunity to listen to learn and to help make a difference. As I
have travelled around the world I have been privileged to meet and to learn about
individuals who through their actions have been committed to promoting tolerance,
respect, justice, mercy and hope.
As a producer and director of documentaries, I believe that it is important to share
the diverse stories represented by these remarkable societal and cultural role
models in order to help promote understanding and respect between people and
challenge intolerance and prejudice.
This is a priority for me especially since we are living in a time when so many of the
stories that are aired and shared on the multi media and social networking
platforms focus on violence, hatred, corruption and abuse.
By choosing to produce documentaries applauding heroes and heroines around the
world I hope to provide a modality for the promotion of tolerance and civility with
every audience that attends a screening. . One never knows how a viewer will
respond and what actions might be forthcoming on that individual’s life journey.
What have you always wanted to maintain in your works?
My parents taught me through their own actions, that it is incumbent upon each of
us to recognize that we have the capacity as well as the responsibility to care for one
another and to do for each other regardless of gender, race, physical or mental
handicaps or religious beliefs. This is a moral challenge that each of us must
address, especially if we aspire to live in a more peaceful world.
I chose to commit myself to this challenge by using film as a means to create
awareness and acknowledge persons who have made social contributions to their
respective societies. Individuals who have committed themselves to improving the
quality of life in their communities and cultures are role models whose stories need
to be told. This is a priority for me and I have focused my efforts on producing
films that will hopefully inspire others to do what they can to improve themselves
and their communities.
As a filmmaker it has been a privilege to share several of these compelling stories
with global audiences and provide an opportunity for education, discussion and
growth.

Cheryl at his office

What inspired you to make the “Two Zions: The Living Legacy of the
Queen of Sheba and King Solomon” documentary?

Wherever I travel, I particularly enjoy learning about people, their history and their
culture. On my first visit to Ethiopia I was introduced to the unique history shared
by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Jews when I was allowed to view the
Imperial collection of Emperor Haile Selassie, who was also called the “Lion of
Judah.” After doing additional research I was compelled to tell the Ethiopian
Judeo-Christian story.
The documentary, “Two Zions:  The Living Legacy of the Queen of Sheba
and King Solomon” tells the story of people from two seemingly
disparate countries, Ethiopia and Israel, who share a bond originating in Biblical
time. Through a strong belief in their historical legacy they continue to observe
parallel spiritual and cultural lifestyles.  By documenting this unique bond, I,
together with support from the Queen of Sheba Foundation, was motivated to
introduce global audiences to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Jews who
celebrate their diversity with mutual respect for their shared roots.  It is an attitude
that has survived the challenges of more than 2500 years and is an important lesson
for all of us to view.

What motivated you to produce “Fighting to be Free”?
Everyone has a story to be shared. As an independent documentary producer I
listen and respond to those stories that both expand my knowledge and also touch
my emotions.
One documentary that I produced, “Fighting to be Free” began during a breakfast
meeting that I had with the then First Lady of Ethiopia, Azeb Mesfin regarding an
educational initiative. The First Lady together with several of her friends began
reminiscing about their teenage years and their unique education when they chose
to join the fight for freedom. As I listened to what was shared with me I was in awe
of these women. They began their narrative as rural and urban, literate and
illiterate teenage girls who grew into heroic young women fighting for freedom.
They challenged cultural norms and emerged as leaders within a 17 year long
armed struggle for freedom. When the freedom struggle ended they were able to
champion the inclusion of gender equality in the Ethiopian Constitution and thereby
provide a continuing legacy for future generations of Ethiopian women. They were
“Fighting to be Free” and they won. They taught themselves and others that
anything is possible if you work together to achieve a goal, regardless of your
individual socio-economic or educational backgrounds. Needless to say, I felt
compelled to share the stories of these remarkable women.

Cheryl with the First Lady and the Premier of Ethiopia related to his documentary

What motivated you to produce “WishMakers”?
“WishMakers” began after a visit to a liquor store in Jerusalem, Israel, in order to
buy a bottle of wine to bring as a gift to a friend. The owner of the store, suggested
that I purchase the Black Tulip wine, which I did. After enjoying the wine with my
friends I returned to the store to buy several more bottles to share with others. The
owner of the store then told me that there was a unique history to the Tulip winery
which he continued to share. I was intrigued and needed to visit the winery and
confirm the story for myself. I was simply overwhelmed by the experience.
In “WishMakers” I tell the story of the unique partnership existing in the Tulip
Winery between the Yitzchaki Family and the adult special needs residents of Kfar
Tikvah, the Village of Hope. Adults with special needs who would typically be
avoided and be referred to in the negative as “feeble minded” or as “retards” are
employed in the winery with respect and dignity. These amazing people take pride
at being integral members of a successful winemaking team and find joy in knowing
that profits from their “WishMaker” wine goes to the Make A Wish Foundation-
Israel to grant the wishes of children fighting life threatening illnesses.
This documentary is meant to celebrate each of these heartwarming individuals and
teach audiences to appreciate them, without prejudice. We need to remember the
Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would want to have done for yourself.”
What are your thoughts about “Menari: An Indonesian Legacy” and your co-
director Natasha Dematra?
It has truly been a privilege to work together with a talented and young Indonesian
filmmaker, Natasha Dematra, who shares the same storytelling goals and focus as
do I. Regardless of the miles that separate us, we have been able to work together,
with the benefit of technology, as though we were in offices next to each other.
Recently, Natasha and I were both overwhelmed to learn that“ Menari: An
Indonesian Legacy” was chosen as one of the best Indonesian documentaries ever
produced.
The film celebrates the history of Indonesia’s traditional dances and their
continuing generational legacy. It has shown diverse international audiences the
beauty and the uniqueness of the Indonesian dance and accompanying musical
culture. With the global screenings of “Menari: An Indonesian Legacy,” Natasha
has convinced me that we have become unofficial goodwill ambassadors for
Indonesian culture.

What about “Kanda Bode” and your co-director Fekad Kiros?
“Kanda Bode” is the third documentary that Fekad and I have worked on together.
Not only is she an incredibly resourceful and talented filmmaker she is also an
exceptional tour guide. Most important, however, is she is a very dear friend! On
one of my trips to Ethiopia I had mentioned my interest in learning and observing
tribal culture. She immediately arranged for a private trip for us to take since she
too was interested in experiencing the tribal culture and had not as yet done so.
Fate intervened and Landele, the young man who wrote the music, “Kanda Bode”
was our interlocutor with his tribe, the Hamer tribe. Landele introduced us to the
tribal traditions and shared the song that he wrote in order to change a tradition
that he could not abide. Fekad and I were both determined to do whatever we could
to help Landele change the acceptability of the whipping of women within Hamer
tribal tradition. What followed was significant discussion with the tribespeople
during the filming of the documentary. Tribal awareness was especially raised
when we filmed Landele singing his song together with women and even young
children on the tribal market day.
Thankfully the Hamer people are beginning to consider how their tradition can
evolve.
“Kanda Bode…Don’t Get Whipped.”

What is it like to work with co-directors?
It is important to always know the strengths and weaknesses of the people with
whom you are working closely. I have been fortunate to co-direct with several
wonderful and talented young, emerging filmmakers in their respective countries. I
respect their knowledge of their country and culture. They respect my experience
as a veteran award winning filmmaker. Together we set our goals, our agenda and
schedule our zoom meetings to review our progress.
My Indonesian partner, Natasha Dematra, and I, are currently working on our
second documentary, filmed entirely in Indonesia that we hope to release later this
year. I look forward to continue working with my international partners as
compelling stories are shared with us.

Cheryl at Screening


How many times have you and your documentaries received awards?
As an independent filmmaker I am humbled to have produced award winning
documentaries that have provided compelling historical and cultural information to
audiences. These documentaries have been recognized by numerous international
film festivals and educational institutions on every continent, except Antarctica.
They have also been included in Museum exhibits and library collections around the
world.

What do you think the future holds for the film industry?
The film industry is ever evolving as entertainment options have significantly
changed with the introduction of new technology.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “A new era is dawning in the
entertainment world. The streaming wars are here.”
Streaming technology service including vod, sod and mod from the titans of media
and technology offer consumers an overwhelming abundance of television shows
and movies representing different genres from around the world.
This streaming revolution has spurred the development of new content creation
using smartphones and other inexpensive digital devices that is being seen and
heard on new content sites. The viewing consumer today has the ability to stream a
multitude of shows simultaneously on a multitude of devices.
This dynamic has disrupted the traditional business side of the industry. Theaters
today are being effectively challenged as the primary destination for film viewing by
the on demand streaming services. Netflix, for example, makes it so very easy for
consumers to decide against going out to the cinema and instead to spend their
dollars… or euros…etc., on subscriptions instead of tickets. You can engage with a
film when, where, and how you choose.
The challenges impacting the film industry will continue to evolve. The future will
not be stagnant. New technology will continue to be developed. Distribution and
marketing techniques will continue to change. New and creative funding
opportunities for filmmakers will arise. However, the need for storytelling will
remain ever present. I wish every aspiring filmmaker the patience, perseverence
and the best of luck with their productions in this evolutionary industry .

What is your message for future filmmakers?
When you decide to use film as the medium for your storytelling, you have to be
prepared for the task and trust yourself. I have personally engaged in the
researching for every story that I have chosen to produce and direct. I read the
books and articles that are available before going forward to identify the key
individuals that I will want to interview. I need to be as informed as possible in
order to ask the questions that will draw out the individual being interviewed on
camera. Very often it is the person being interviewed who then shares even more
resource information and documentation to enhance the project. Ultimately, you
need to believe that what you are filming will enable you to achieve your directorial
and production goals.

What are your thoughts about the Globe Roaming Global Film Festival?
I applaud the GRGFF for providing a unique spectrum of submission opportunities
for filmmakers to consider. It has been a wonderful experience for me to submit my
different documentaries to GRGFF in anticipation that they will be screened and
acknowledged around the world through a single festival. The follow up options for
promotion and distribution of films is another distinctive feature of the GRGFF. I
am proud to now be a member of the GRGFF alumni.

What inspired you to make the “Two Zions: The Living Legacy of the
Queen of Sheba and King Solomon” documentary?

Wherever I travel, I particularly enjoy learning about people, their history and their
culture. On my first visit to Ethiopia I was introduced to the unique history shared
by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Jews when I was allowed to view the
Imperial collection of Emperor Haile Selassie, who was also called the “Lion of
Judah.” After doing additional research I was compelled to tell the Ethiopian
Judeo-Christian story.
The documentary, “Two Zions:  The Living Legacy of the Queen of Sheba
and King Solomon” tells the story of people from two seemingly
disparate countries, Ethiopia and Israel, who share a bond originating in Biblical
time. Through a strong belief in their historical legacy they continue to observe
parallel spiritual and cultural lifestyles.  By documenting this unique bond, I,
together with support from the Queen of Sheba Foundation, was motivated to
introduce global audiences to the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and Jews who
celebrate their diversity with mutual respect for their shared roots.  It is an attitude
that has survived the challenges of more than 2500 years and is an important lesson
for all of us to view.

What motivated you to produce “WishMakers”?
“WishMakers” began after a visit to a liquor store in Jerusalem, Israel, in order to
buy a bottle of wine to bring as a gift to a friend. The owner of the store, suggested
that I purchase the Black Tulip wine, which I did. After enjoying the wine with my
friends I returned to the store to buy several more bottles to share with others. The
owner of the store then told me that there was a unique history to the Tulip winery
which he continued to share. I was intrigued and needed to visit the winery and
confirm the story for myself. I was simply overwhelmed by the experience.
In “WishMakers” I tell the story of the unique partnership existing in the Tulip
Winery between the Yitzchaki Family and the adult special needs residents of Kfar
Tikvah, the Village of Hope. Adults with special needs who would typically be
avoided and be referred to in the negative as “feeble minded” or as “retards” are
employed in the winery with respect and dignity. These amazing people take pride
at being integral members of a successful winemaking team and find joy in knowing
that profits from their “WishMaker” wine goes to the Make A Wish Foundation-
Israel to grant the wishes of children fighting life threatening illnesses.
This documentary is meant to celebrate each of these heartwarming individuals and
teach audiences to appreciate them, without prejudice. We need to remember the
Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would want to have done for yourself.”
What are your thoughts about “Menari: An Indonesian Legacy” and your co-
director Natasha Dematra?
It has truly been a privilege to work together with a talented and young Indonesian
filmmaker, Natasha Dematra, who shares the same storytelling goals and focus as
do I. Regardless of the miles that separate us, we have been able to work together,
with the benefit of technology, as though we were in offices next to each other.
Recently, Natasha and I were both overwhelmed to learn that“ Menari: An
Indonesian Legacy” was chosen as one of the best Indonesian documentaries ever
produced.
The film celebrates the history of Indonesia’s traditional dances and their
continuing generational legacy. It has shown diverse international audiences the
beauty and the uniqueness of the Indonesian dance and accompanying musical
culture. With the global screenings of “Menari: An Indonesian Legacy,” Natasha
has convinced me that we have become unofficial goodwill ambassadors for
Indonesian culture.

What about “Kanda Bode” and your co-director Fekad Kiros?
“Kanda Bode” is the third documentary that Fekad and I have worked on together.
Not only is she an incredibly resourceful and talented filmmaker she is also an
exceptional tour guide. Most important, however, is she is a very dear friend! On
one of my trips to Ethiopia I had mentioned my interest in learning and observing
tribal culture. She immediately arranged for a private trip for us to take since she
too was interested in experiencing the tribal culture and had not as yet done so.
Fate intervened and Landele, the young man who wrote the music, “Kanda Bode”
was our interlocutor with his tribe, the Hamer tribe. Landele introduced us to the
tribal traditions and shared the song that he wrote in order to change a tradition
that he could not abide. Fekad and I were both determined to do whatever we could
to help Landele change the acceptability of the whipping of women within Hamer
tribal tradition. What followed was significant discussion with the tribespeople
during the filming of the documentary. Tribal awareness was especially raised
when we filmed Landele singing his song together with women and even young
children on the tribal market day.
Thankfully the Hamer people are beginning to consider how their tradition can
evolve.
“Kanda Bode…Don’t Get Whipped.”
What is it like to work with co-directors?
It is important to always know the strengths and weaknesses of the people with
whom you are working closely. I have been fortunate to co-direct with several
wonderful and talented young, emerging filmmakers in their respective countries. I
respect their knowledge of their country and culture. They respect my experience
as a veteran award winning filmmaker. Together we set our goals, our agenda and
schedule our zoom meetings to review our progress.
My Indonesian partner, Natasha Dematra, and I, are currently working on our
second documentary, filmed entirely in Indonesia that we hope to release later this
year. I look forward to continue working with my international partners as
compelling stories are shared with us.
How many times have you and your documentaries received awards?
As an independent filmmaker I am humbled to have produced award winning
documentaries that have provided compelling historical and cultural information to
audiences. These documentaries have been recognized by numerous international
film festivals and educational institutions on every continent, except Antarctica.
They have also been included in Museum exhibits and library collections around the
world.

What do you think the future holds for the film industry?
The film industry is ever evolving as entertainment options have significantly
changed with the introduction of new technology.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that “A new era is dawning in the
entertainment world. The streaming wars are here.”
Streaming technology service including vod, sod and mod from the titans of media
and technology offer consumers an overwhelming abundance of television shows
and movies representing different genres from around the world.
This streaming revolution has spurred the development of new content creation
using smartphones and other inexpensive digital devices that is being seen and
heard on new content sites. The viewing consumer today has the ability to stream a
multitude of shows simultaneously on a multitude of devices.
This dynamic has disrupted the traditional business side of the industry. Theaters
today are being effectively challenged as the primary destination for film viewing by
the on demand streaming services. Netflix, for example, makes it so very easy for
consumers to decide against going out to the cinema and instead to spend their
dollars… or euros…etc., on subscriptions instead of tickets. You can engage with a
film when, where, and how you choose.
The challenges impacting the film industry will continue to evolve. The future will
not be stagnant. New technology will continue to be developed. Distribution and
marketing techniques will continue to change. New and creative funding
opportunities for filmmakers will arise. However, the need for storytelling will
remain ever present. I wish every aspiring filmmaker the patience, perseverence
and the best of luck with their productions in this evolutionary industry .

What is your message for future filmmakers?
When you decide to use film as the medium for your storytelling, you have to be
prepared for the task and trust yourself. I have personally engaged in the
researching for every story that I have chosen to produce and direct. I read the
books and articles that are available before going forward to identify the key
individuals that I will want to interview. I need to be as informed as possible in
order to ask the questions that will draw out the individual being interviewed on
camera. Very often it is the person being interviewed who then shares even more
resource information and documentation to enhance the project. Ultimately, you
need to believe that what you are filming will enable you to achieve your directorial
and production goals.

What are your thoughts about the Globe Roaming Global Film Festival?
I applaud the GRGFF for providing a unique spectrum of submission opportunities
for filmmakers to consider. It has been a wonderful experience for me to submit my
different documentaries to GRGFF in anticipation that they will be screened and
acknowledged around the world through a single festival. The follow up options for
promotion and distribution of films is another distinctive feature of the GRGFF. I
am proud to now be a member of the GRGFF alumni.

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