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...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    ‘Death of Klinghoffer’ Actress Compares Met Opera to ‘Schindler’s List’

    An actress starring in the controversial Met Opera The Death of Klinghoffer defended the show on Tuesday by comparing it to the 1993 Holocaust film Schindler’s List, New York Post reported. “To me, this was like [the movie] Schindler’s List. We make art so people won’t forget,’’ said the actress, who plays a captured passenger in the show and asked not to be identified. The Met Opera focuses on the infamous murder of Lower East Side Jewish resident Leon Klinghoffer, 69. The wheelchair-bound father of [...]

    Read more →
  • Analysis Arts and Culture Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    Beyond ‘Klinghoffer’: Opera’s Composer, Librettist Have Broader Jewish Problem

    JNS.org – One of the most controversial operas in recent memory, “The Death of Klinghoffer,” debuted Oct. 20 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The Met has scheduled seven more performances through November. The first staging did not occur without protest, as about 400 demonstrators—including Jewish communal and nationally recognized leaders—came to Lincoln Center to denounce the anti-Jewish and anti-Israel opera. “Klinghoffer,” the creation of composer John Adams and librettist Alice Goodman, premiered in 1991—with few additional stagings. The opera is based [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli Actress Gal Gadot in Talks to Star in Ben-Hur Remake

    Israeli actress Gal Gadot is in negotiations to take on the female lead role in the remake of the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, according to The Hollywood Reporter. If the deal is finalized Gadot will play Esther, a slave and Ben-Hur’s love interest. Actor Jack Huston will star as the Jewish prince who is betrayed into slavery by his childhood friend Messala, played by Toby Kebbell. Ben-Hur fights for his freedom and vengeance with the help of Morgan Freeman’s character, who trains Ben-Hur how to win at chariot-racing. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    Young Israelis Try to Crowd-Fund Their Way to Major League Baseball Playoffs

    JNS.org – Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie are the American dream. So why do two young men who have built their lives in Israel have a GoFundMe crowd-funding webpage with the urgent message that they need $3,000 to travel to the U.S. to watch the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles square off for Major League Baseball’s (MLB) American League championship? Brothers Naftali and Yoni Schwartz, 27 and 25, respectively, are Kansas City natives. Even though they made aliyah with their [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Race Cars Speed Through Jerusalem in Amazing Exhibition

    Some 3,000 years ago, King David probably never imagined cars racing at 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) through the ancient capital of the Jewish people. But on Monday and Tuesday, October 6-7, thousands of Israelis lined the streets to watch Porsche, Audi, and Ferrari race cars fly through the capital against the backdrop of the Tower of David, the Old City Walls, and other city landmarks. The second annual non-competitive Jerusalem Formula One Road Show had been [...]

    Read more →
  • Israel Sports NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    NBA Superstar LeBron James Says He Wants to Visit Israel

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James expressed interest in visiting Israel someday, local news site Cleveland.com reported on Sunday. Speaking to Israeli reporters before the Cleveland Cavaliers’ preseason debut against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the NBA star said he had never visited the Jewish state but “I want to look forward to going there if I get an opportunity to.” When asked by an Israeli reporter if there was “any chance that LeBron James and Cleveland comes to Tel Aviv,” the athlete said [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    Florida Rabbi Dominates Former Basketball Star Congressman in Hoops Showdown (VIDEO)

    A Florida-based Chabad rabbi put former basketball star, U.S. Congressman Curt Clawson to shame on the court when the two faced off one-on-one recently. A YouTube video, posted online on Tuesday, shows Rabbi Fishel Zaklos of Chabad of Naples shooting hoops with the Florida politician, who played basketball in high school and at Purdue University in Indiana. The game took place in the parking lot of the Chabad Jewish center run by Zaklos. During the 1-minute clip, Zaklos scores two impressive [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    David Blatt’s Cleveland Cavaliers Rout Maccabi Tel Aviv, 107-80

    JNS.org – Less than five months after leading Maccabi Tel Aviv to its sixth European basketball title, David Blatt, now the head coach of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, routed his former team in an exhibition game on Sunday, with the Cavaliers dominating Maccabi 107-80 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. The 20,562 fans in attendance witnessed Lebron James’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform since he left the club in free agency for the Miami Heat four years ago. [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.