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...

  • Book Reviews Personalities How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    How a Jewish Leader With 3 Months to Live Created a ‘Seminar’ on Life

    JNS.org – What would you do if you found out that you had only three more months to live? Gordon Zacks was a successful businessman, a leader of Jewish life, and a confidante and adviser to President George H.W. Bush. He knew that he had prostate cancer, but doctors advised him that it was very slow-growing and nothing to worry about. Then came the day when the doctors told him his cancer metastasized to his liver, and that he had [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater 10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    10 Things I Learned From My Play About Holocaust Denial

    Last month, my one-man show Hoaxocaust! Written and performed by Barry Levey with the generous assistance of the Institute for Political and International Studies, Tehran ran in the New York International Fringe Festival, where it won an Overall Excellence Award. The play has now been selected to run in the Fringe Encores Series at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center, for four performances which started on Thursday, September 11. Getting the play to the stage was not easy, however. Here are [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Israeli Music Producer Racks Up Over 535,000 YouTube Hits – in Two Days

    Phenomenon: Tel Aviv-based musician and “sampler” extraordinaire, Kutiman (aka Ophir Kutiel) has hit another one out of the park with “Give It Up,” a fully-functioning song in its own right, assembled from hundreds of ameteur and instructional music videos. The Jerusalem-born musical prodigy is best know for his diverse online musical projects. In the latest video, uploaded to YouTube on Sept. 12th, Kutiel thanked most of the musicians and individuals he chose to include in the meticulously-edited clip, which opens with [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    Behind-the-Scenes Reel of Ridley Scott’s Moses Epic Shows Scenes Using 4000 Extras (VIDEO)

    A recently released behind-the-scenes reel of Ridley Scott’s upcoming film Exodus: Gods and Kings shows just how far the director has gone to portray one of the Bible’s most famous narratives. In the clip, which shows scenes involving up to 4,000 extras, the visionary director discusses what drew him to the biblical tale of Moses. “The Moses story was a massive challenge, which I really love. I wanted to explore the complexity of his character and I was stunned by [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    Turner Classic Movies Showcases ‘Broad Sweep’ of the Jewish Experience on Film

    JNS.org – Since 2006, the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) cable and satellite TV network has hosted “The Projected Image,” a month-long showcase examining how different cultural and ethnic groups have been portrayed on the big screen. At last, after previously covering African Americans, Asians, the LGBT community, Latinos, Native Americans, Arabs, and people with disabilities, the annual series is delving into Jewish film this month. “The Projected Image: The Jewish Experience on Film,” whose first segment aired Sept. 2, runs [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Jewish Identity An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    An Inside Look at the Hasidim (REVIEW)

    The sight of young girls in pinafores and young boys wearing peyos – sidelocks – dangling over their ears is a sure sign that you have entered the enigmatic precincts of the Hasidim – the pious ones. Veteran New York Times journalist Joseph Berger’s new book, THE PIOUS ONES: The World of Hasidim and their Battles with America, takes the reader on a journey into the enclaves where various sects of Jews live a seemingly outmoded way of life in [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    How Jewish Television Pioneer Milton Berle Inspired Modern Comedy Stars

    JNS.org – Today’s comedy superstars, especially those whose careers are driven by television, may very well owe their success to pioneering Jewish entertainer Milton Berle. Born Mendel Berlinger in Manhattan in 1908, Berle became America’s first small-screen star. Aptly nicknamed “Mr. Television,” he influenced and helped promote the work of hundreds of younger comics. “Milton Berle was deceptively successful and very Jewish,” says Lawrence Epstein, author of The Haunted Smile: The Story of Jewish Comedians in America, published the year [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    Jewish ‘Hoops Whisperer’ a Secret Weapon for NBA Stars

    JNS.org – Idan Ravin’s friends chipped in to buy him a humble but life-changing bar mitzvah gift—a basketball hoop his father attached to the roof of his garage. Little did his friends know that years later, he would be the personal trainer of National Basketball Association (NBA) stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard, and Stephen Curry. Ravin’s new book, “The Hoops Whisperer: On the Court and Inside the Head of Basketball’s Best Players,” details his rise from a Jewish upbringing [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.