Winner seeks to tell the stories of the disenfranchised
On his college transcript, 24-year old Naphtali Rosenberg seems like a typical college senior about to graduate with a degree in business administration. In reality, he has a far bigger plan to take that business degree and apply it to the world of filmmaking.
Rosenberg is this year’s winner of a scholarship created by the Miami Jewish Film Festival that sends a Jewish South Florida student to Jerusalem for a six week workshop on film making, from June 14 to July 25.
“I am beyond excited and grateful for this incredible opportunity I have been given,” Rosenberg told The Media Line. “It’s really a dream program they have put together.”
When selecting a winner for the scholarship, the Miami Jewish Film Festival was seeking a student with an intense passion for film making. While Rosenberg is going to Florida International University to receive a degree in business administration, his degree is all part of a larger plan focused around film.
Rosenberg wants to open his own production company and he plans to use the skills he learned with his business degree to help him along the way.
“The logistics side is the most important part of creating a quality film piece,” Rosenberg said. “Having a clear, creative vision is very important, but is only half of the necessities in film making. Acquiring finances, building and leading teams, marketing and distribution of a film project are what will tremendously help ensure the highest quality.”
Rosenberg was born in New York but moved to South Florida after less than two years. His mother is an African-American who converted to Judaism and his father is an Orthodox Jew associated with the Chabad movement of Hasidism.
“I have been deep in the Jewish community simultaneously as an insider and outsider, which has given me a unique perspective on Jewish culture,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg’s diverse background caused him to stand out when he attended Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, where he was the only student of African-American descent.
“Socially, I wasn’t able to express myself the way I wanted to,” Rosenberg said. He turned to various art forms such as writing, drawing, and painting to express himself at the time. It was not long until Rosenberg found the same solace in film making.
Rosenberg’s film portfolio includes short films, advertisements for startup companies, and multiple business conferences. This week he is taking on the 48 Hour Film Project in Miami, an event where teams of filmmakers have a single weekend to write, shoot, and edit a short film.
This summer, students of the Jerusalem Film Workshop will be tasked with creating one documentary film during their six week stay. Rosenberg plans to create a film focusing on the Ethiopian Jews that live in Israel.
“They [Ethiopians] have a large community in Israel and unless you travel there people don’t realize that there is an African community of practicing Jews,” Rosenberg said. “I don’t think their story has been told well.”
This film idea directly reflects Rosenberg’s future plans in film making. When he creates his own film production company, he hopes to focus on films that tell the story of the disenfranchised.
“I want to do all kinds of film but primarily I want to focus on the unheard voice and different minority groups that have overcome certain obstacles and didn’t see themselves just as victims,” Rosenberg said.
For a second consecutive year, the Miami Jewish Film Festival has provided a full ride scholarship to the Jerusalem Film Workshop. Festival executive director Igor Shteyrenberg has developed the scholarship program over the last two years and he believes its purpose directly reflects what the festival stands for.
“This [scholarship] really spoke to our festival’s core values,” Shteyrenberg told The Media Line. “That’s bridging cultural gaps, supplying tolerance and understanding, and giving fledgling filmmakers the opportunity to… realize their dreams.”
Selecting a winner for the scholarship was a lengthy process in which a candidate’s previous work in film and commitment to film making was analyzed, Shteyrenberg said.
“Over 150 candidates were vying for our scholarship and each of them showed tremendous potential,” Shteyrenberg said. “Ultimately, what distinguished Naphtali was his extraordinary burning passion and determination to fulfilling his film making dreams, his production experience, and extensive work-to-date.”
THOMAS CHILES is a student journalist with The Media Line’s Press and Policy Student Program.
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