Everyone’s a Critic – and for Docs In Progress, That’s Okay

Written by Kol HaBirah Staff on . Posted in Arts & Entertainment

We've all heard the expression "everyone's a critic," but few view it in a positive light. Docs In Progress, a nonprofit based in Silver Spring, Maryland, is an exception to that rule.

Docs In Progress, lead by Executive Director Erica Ginsberg, creates and fosters a supportive community for documentary filmmakers in the Greater Washington DC area. Their flagship programming, Work-in-Progress Screenings help local and visiting filmmakers who are seeking feedback on a story structure and character development. These screenings are open to the general public and include a facilitated session where the audience provides constructive feedback on the story structure and character development of these not-quite-finished documentaries.

"This can be essential to help filmmakers move forward with creative blocks or to get a reality check on a film ahead of distribution," says Ginsberg. "Since 2004, we've screened more than 150 films and the majority have been completed, some going on to film festival and distribution success," she continues.

 Still from Bonnie Rich's "Searching for My Jewish Soul." (Image courtesy of Docs in Progress)

This Sunday, August 6, Docs In Progress is trying something new and pretty Jewish. Through a recent grant from the National Endowment of the Arts, they are expanding on this idea of Works-in-Progress Screenings, and are presenting the event in a series called Docs in the City. Each event will present two documentary filmmakers and their films that work within the same theme, one a work-in-progress and the other an iconic, established film. A moderated, audience-feedback session will follow the work-in-progress to offer honest and constructive critique for the emerging filmmakers. A Q&A session with the established filmmaker will also take place at each event. 

For the kick-off event, presented in partnership with Washington Jewish Film Festival, the theme will be "Personal Documentary" and will feature emerging filmmaker, Bonnie Rich’s Searching for My Jewish Soul (work-in-progress) and award-winning filmmaker Doug Block’s iconic film 51 Birch Street. Docs In Progress is billing both films under the shared theme of Personal Documentaries, but, they share another theme as well - an exploration of Jewish culture and identity. 

"There is no question that both films deal in different ways with aspects of contemporary Jewish-American life. That is why we approached the Washington Jewish Film Festival to co-host the screening. They are an incredible partner," says Ginsberg.

Local filmmaker and Jewish mom, Bonnie Rich, takes a lighthearted approach to a serious matter in her work-in-progress,Searching for My Jewish Soul. After her two adult daughters confess to her that they have their doubts about raising their hypothetical children Jewish, she decides to explore contemporary relevance in Judaism.

Watch the trailer for Searching for My Jewish Soul:  https://youtu.be/Oyb_bDP8XPA

New York based, award-winning filmmaker, Doug Block explores the question “Do we ever really know our parents?” in his acclaimed film, 51 Birch Street. Spanning 60 years and three generations of a Jewish family, the film weaves together hundreds of faded snapshots, 8mm home movies, and two decades of footage in a tale of what can happen when our most fundamental assumptions about family are suddenly called into question.

Watch the trailer for 51 Birch Street: https://youtu.be/N-_pA7UiMdI

See both films and participate in the talk-back and Q&A this Sunday at the Edlavitch DC Jewish Community Center. Tickets and further information are here.