I was born and raised in Kenya. My Polish/Romanian parents had settled there after fleeing Hitler in 1939. I attended schools in Kenya, earning My “O” and “A” Levels at the Kenya Girls’ High School in Nairobi, and went on to earn a B. Sc. in zoology, botany and chemistry at the University of Nairobi in 1968.
While in Kenya, my main interests were in theater, film and radio, and I was involved in many local productions as an actress or on the production side. From the age of 16, I contributed feature articles to Kenya’s main newspaper, the East African Standard and also worked free-lance for Kenya’s radio station, the Voice Of Kenya, dramatizing and acting in radio plays.
After graduating from the University of Nairobi in 1968, I attended Bristol University, UK, from 1969 - 1970, where I earned a postgraduate Diploma in Film Technology and Theatre History. This entailed all aspects of 16mm and 35mm film-making, including camera, sound recording and editing. I was closely involved with productions at the renowned Bristol Old Vic and with the BBC’s Natural History branch in Bristol. During this period, I was involved in several award-winning student films as producer, camera and/or sound technician/editor. After graduation, I worked in London as Production Assistant for Maya Film Productions – an award-winning independent film company run by England’s renowned producer, Barney Platts-Mills..
In 1970, I moved to Hamburg, Germany, to work for the film and television production company, Windrose-Dumont-Time, on a series of 16 films on animal behavior. I worked closely with scientific experts for each film, translating their data into layman’s terms, and wrote the scripts for six of the films, all of which were broadcast world-wide. I also wrote and produced Chefa Jila, a documentary on an Ethiopian village, which was broadcast on German television in July, 1974. Another product of this period was PowerPlay, a black-and-white experimental film illustrating the futility of ambitions for power, which was screened in several Hamburg film theaters and was later included in Alwaysi’s web-based Throwback Film Festival in 2002.
I left the film industry because of union limitations both in the U.K. and in Germany. From 1972 - 1974, I worked as PR Manager for Polydor records in Hamburg, taking visiting music groups like Eric Clapton, Slade, and James Brown on tour throughout Germany. For the 12 years that I lived in Hamburg, I was also a free-lance contributor to countless newspapers, magazines and radio shows, writing (in German) on everything from pop to politics, poetry to penguins. I frequently read my own dramatized works of fiction in Hamburg’s many literary venues.
In 1982, I moved to the United States, where I continued to work as a journalist and to follow another calling as a teacher. In 1992, I graduated from Bank Street College of Education in Manhattan with a Masters Degree in Education and since then, I have taught creative non-fiction and fiction writing to students of all ages in schools throughout Long Island and the Triborough district. For seven years, I was Professor of Writing and the Writing Program Coordinator at Friends World Program, an international college based in Southampton. Although that school is now called Global College and affiliated with Long Island University in Brooklyn, I still teach the graduating students’ Senior Thesis Seminar every spring.
I have also taught many courses in professional development for teachers. The most recent was for Primary Source in Boston in October, 2007, where I ran a workshop on East African history that included curriculum development on this topic for all grades. I have also run several teachers’ workshops on curriculum development, including one at Bank Street College of Education titled Including Indigenous People in the Social Studies Curriculum and several for various high schools on Writing Across the Curriculum; and Curriculum Development in Any Content Area. Most recently, I ran the latter course at the United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya (2006) for a group of 38 teachers in all faculties, including math, political science, geography and environmental studies. I have also conducted various workshops for teachers for BOCES (Board Of Cooperative Educational Services) on Long Island, and have worked in many high schools to enhance their African studies curriculum.
I have authored several books for the educational market, among them an award-winning six-part series titled African Kingdoms of the Past (Simon & Schuster/Dillon Press, 1992 - 1996), as well as The Ancient Hebrews and Isabel and Ferdinand in Fifteenth Century Spain (Benchmark Books, 1995 and 1996). I have published poetry in various small presses as well as Yellow Dog Dreaming (Wiseacre Press, 1995), a collection of illustrated short stories about white women in Africa. My account of growing up in Kenya, titled Nusu Nusu, was published in the 2007 issue of The Global City Review.
In recent years, I have resumed film-making. In 2002, I completed a 15mn 16mm black-and-white film titled Surrender which was shot on Long Island and selected for the 2002 Independent Film Project (IFP) market where it was picked up by the Independent Film Channel and broadcast frequently for three years. In January/February of 2004, I traveled around southern India and produced a "documentary travelogue" titled India - And Other Thoughts as a break-through model for Windows Movie-Maker. In 2005, I made a short documentary film for the Earthwatch Samburu Conservation Initiative in northern Kenya, which was my way of giving back something to the country I love so much. Since 1990, I have been filming my mother and my family for a documentary titled Riding The Equator which concerns my Jewish parents' extraordinary life and work in Kenya and which will go into post-production in 2010. In 2007, I made The Swahili Beat, an upbeat look at the fascinating history of East Africa's Islamic coast, packed with indigenous music and dance and geared towards the educational market. The Swahili Beat is distributed by Documentary Educational Resources. In January 2011 I completed four years of work on Walking With Life - The Birth of a Human Rights Movement in Africa, which concerns the ways in which human rights education delivered by an NGO known as Tostan helps people in Senegal, Mali and other African countries to resolve issues using the human rights framework. This film was screened at several film festivals, including the San Diego Black Film Festival; the Hamptons Black International Film Festival; Beloit International Film Festival; Naperville Independent film festival; Clearwater Film Festival; and The Indie Fest, La Jolla, and has won several awards (see the home page of WALKING WITH LIFE for details). This film is now represented by Page Ostrow of Ostrow and Company, Beverly Hills, CA, and distributed by TomCat Films, LLC.
I produced two companion films on the topic of human rights education: Tostan: Building Partnerships Through Human Rights Education, and Human Rights Cities: Paths to Peace . All three films are included on one packaged DVD or as individual films.
In December 2011, I launched my current documentary project, titled BEAUTIFUL TREE, SEVERED ROOTS (see its web page), as a work-in-progress. It is an exploration of personal identity based on my parents' lives as Jewish refugees who emigrated to Kenya in 1942. The film covers my own coming of age during East Africa's colonial period between the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s and Independence in 1963, and reflects on our family's Jewish, European, African and White African perspectives. I am now in post-production on this project and look forward to its completion by September 2012.
My feature-length script titled Exposed - a post-9/11 thriller set in the Hamptons, is in its final draft and will then be entered into the festival and competitive circle.
I have also developed a treatment and full production proposal package for a feature film or 6-part television series titled Marrano!, which follows the fate of a converso Jewish family during the Spanish Inquisition.
I currently teach Documentary Film - All Aspects of Production, Writing a Treatment, Marketing at the Digital Film Academy in Manhattan.