Nora Ephron, Famed Jewish Screenwriter, Remembered Through Tribeca Film Festival Prize

June 11, 2013 12:18 am 0 comments

Meera Menon, the first winner of the Tribeca Film Festival's Nora Ephron Prize for "Farah Goes Bang." Photo: Jim Dobson.

JNS.org – For filmmaker Meera Menon, no honor could have been more fitting than winning the inaugural award named after famed Jewish screenwriter and novelist Nora Ephron, the woman whose work inspired her.

At the recent 2013 Tribeca Film Festival, Menon was named the first recipient of the $25,000 Nora Ephron Prize, given to a writer or director whose work embodies that of the late Ephron, who wrote the scripts for a number of hit films, including “When Harry Met Sally,” “Heartburn” and “Sleepless In Seattle.” Menon told JNS.org that Ephron’s work has inspired her because it epitomizes “how to take pain and suffering and turn them into laughter and joy.”

“Those qualities inspired me and my co-filmmakers,” Menon said. “Receiving this incredible honor in her name means more than I could ever articulate.”

June 26 will mark one year since Ephron’s death from complications from acute myeloid leukemia. Her work will now live on through the annual prize given at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Menon received the prize on April 25 for her film “Farah Goes Bang,” which follows a woman in her 20s who tries to lose her virginity while campaigning across America for presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004.

A writer, director, and producer of narrative and documentary films, Menon’s short film “The Seduction of Shaitan” secured online distribution through the South Asian culture and fashion magazine EGO, and her short film “Mark in Argentina” was an official selection of the 2010 Hollyshorts Film Festival. She has worked for documentary filmmakers on the PBS series “Destination America,” and she produced the documentary short “Polar Opposites,” recently purchased for broadcasting by The Documentary Channel.

Screenwriters Nicholas Pileggi and Nora Ephron at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival. The Nora Ephron Prize was awarded for the first time in April at the Tribeca festival. Photo: David Shankbone.

Menon explained that Ephron through her scripts “recounts a particular female experience that is sometimes painful or shameful, but she finds the humor, the heart and the levity in those subject matters,” Menon said.

“In her iconic film ‘When Harry Met Sally’ and in ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ Meg Ryan’s characters, and her interpretation of Nora’s words, presented a new modern woman that we hadn’t seen before, one that was smart, funny and complicated, and she did all of the things that women aren’t allowed to do onscreen,” she added.

Jane Rosenthal, co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival with Robert DeNiro and Craig Hatkoff, told JNS.org the festival organizers were impressed with Menon’s “fresh, witty, and smart take on a coming of age story about girlfriends, passions and politics.”

“Her film captures the spirit and themes of Nora’s work,” Rosenthal said. “I’m proud to continue Nora’s legacy through this award and encourage women filmmakers to create the work that inspires them.”

The Tribeca Film Festival emerged in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center, with the goal of spurring the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music and culture. Since its first edition in 2002, the festival has screened more than 1,400 films from more than 80 countries, attracted an international audience of more than 4 million, and generated $750 million in economic activity for New York City.

Rosenthal said Ephron “was a great friend to the festival since its inception, and I had the privilege to know her and be in absolute awe of her.”

“She did it all brilliantly, with wit and wisdom that went straight to the heart, and she cooked, too,” Rosenthal said. “I am proud to honor her memory and continue her legacy with this award, which I hope will inspire a new generation of women filmmakers and writers.”

Before she became one of the most influential women in the film industry, Ephron worked briefly as a White House intern for President John F. Kennedy and as a reporter for the New York Post.

Although Jewish by birth, Ephron was not observant. “You can never have too much butter—that is my belief. If I have a religion, that’s it,” she quipped in an NPR interview about her 2009 movie “Julie & Julia.” Ephron’s son Jacob Bernstein, a reporter for the New York Times, will direct anHBO movie on her life called “Everything Is Copy.”

In 1976, Ephron married journalist Carl Bernstein, who along with Bob Woodward broke the story of the Watergate scandal. Three years later, after she had Jacob and was pregnant with her second son Max, she discovered her husband was having an affair with their mutual friend, married British politician Margaret Jay. Coping with this situation, Ephron wrote the novel Heartburn, which was made into the 1986 film by Mike Nichols starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep.

Menon said “Heartburn” represents the idea of taking an experience that was difficult and turning it into a great film.

“It is a tremendous act of bravery to do that, to put your personal life into your storytelling,” Menon said. “Nora did it with more class than anyone has ever done.”

Menon, following in Ephron’s footsteps, used her own experiences, as the daughter of an immigrant from India, to help shape her storytelling. “Farah Goes Bang” was the culmination of Menon’s work to make a film about the issues that mattered most to her: race, politics, sex, and youth.

“In order to create an honest dialogue about those things, we needed to determine the course of our young protagonist’s life, and how, through her relationships and her actions, she is able to stumble towards those moments of self-discovery,” Menon said.

Menon—much like her film’s protagonist, Farah—said she has learned much along her road of self-discovery.

“I grew up in a household that was the constant host of actors, directors, artists, musicians, comedians, and dancers. Through this, I learned the most sacred lesson that I carry with me today: communities need their films, objects of their collective storytelling, to keep themselves together,” Menon said.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Sports LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    LeBron James’ New Coach Shaped by Summer on Kibbutz and Jewish ‘Life Lessons’

    JNS.org – Influenced by his Jewish upbringing and a summer on a kibbutz, basketball coach David Blatt is embarking on his highest-profile challenge yet: coaching LeBron James, the four-time National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player who has made waves for returning to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. After guiding Israel’s storied Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball franchise to its 51st Israeli league championship and 6th Euroleague title this past season, Blatt landed the Cavaliers head-coaching job in June. Just weeks later, [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    Young Syrian Jewish Restauranteur Continues a Family Legacy

    JNS.org – At the turn of the century, a young Jewish immigrant arrived in New York. So begins the history of many American Jewish families. It is 27-year-old Albert Allaham’s story, too, with a few unusual twists. Albert’s “century” is the 21st—he arrived almost 100 years after the massive waves of European Jewish immigration. Rather than coming from a small town along the Danube river, his shtetl was Damascus. His first American business was not a pushcart on the Lower East [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    A Holistic Look at the Rebbe’s Life and Career (REVIEW)

    Did you know that in the entire Bible, only one birthday is mentioned and it is that of Pharaoh? And did you know that according to some scientists, by accepting Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, it is impossible to prove or disprove that the sun is the gravitational center of our solar system? In his new book, REBBE, best-selling author Joseph Telushkin reveals many surprising and sometimes shocking details as he chronicles the life and teachings of the charismatic Rabbi [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Mitzvos New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

    JNS.org – Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels. There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea. Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    New Primetime Drama ‘Tyrant’ Filmed Entirely in Israel (VIDEO)

    The new FX Network drama Tyrant was shot entirely in Israel, just 10 miles north of Tel Aviv, Bloomberg News reported last Tuesday. Tyrant follows the life of an Arab dictator’s second son Barry, played by Adam Rayner, who reluctantly returns home to the Middle Eastern nation of his birth to join the family business away from his suburban life in America. The elaborate set production for the primetime drama included a crew of 300 and a reported cost of over $3 million [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Supermodel: Jewish Mothers Are Constantly Trying to Set Me Up With Their Sons

    Skokie, Il-born 25-year-old Erin Heatherton (Erin Heather Bubley) is rocking the modeling world. And in a new interview accompanying a cover spread for Miami’s Ocean Drive magazine, she says Jewish moms are “constantly trying to set her up with their sons.” Imagine that – who would have thought? “The moms, they’re doing what they do. It doesn’t matter what country they live in, what city – grandmothers, too,” she admitted. “But I’m probably going to do that too one day.” Heatherton was [...]

    Read more →
  • Education Israel First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    First Ever: Turkish Academics to Visit Israel Holocaust Museum for Seminar

    Some 15 Turkish university professors and lecturers will take part in a first of its kind seminar at Holocaust museum Yad Vashem’s International School for Holocaust Studies starting next week. The trip is especially significant as Holocaust denial is rampant in the Arab world. A Palestinian professor was recently forced to resign after he led a trip to the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz. Participants in the week-long program at Yad Vashem will experience in-depth tours of the museum’s archives and [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Rocks Solo Acoustic Version of Israeli National Anthem – Hatikva (VIDEO)

    Guns N’ Roses Guitarist Rocks Solo Acoustic Version of Israeli National Anthem – Hatikva (VIDEO)

    Ok, fans, question time. What do: Guns ‘n’ Roses shred-meister guitarist, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (aka Ronald Jay Blumenthal), “Hard Rock Hotel”, “Las Vegas” and Israel’s ”Hatikva” (The Hope) national anthem… all have in common? I know, you’re probably thinking, “Hmm, ‘One of these things is not like the other,’ would fit in here,” right? Um, no, turns out. Caught backstage by blogger Darren Garnick at the swanky Vegas gig in early June, Thal, acoustic guitar in hand, fretted out a sweetly melodic [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.