Filmmaker Spotlight:
‘Nana’ filmmaker Ali Kellner

Leading up to the 28th Washington Jewish Film Festival, we asked our filmmakers a few questions about their featured films.
In this edition, Director Ali Kellner discusses Nana.

What inspired you to tell the story of your subject or the story depicted in your film?

My grandmother and I are very close and I felt like if I were to tell any story, hers was the one I felt most connected to. She’s one of the strongest and kindest women I know.


What was a particular obstacle you faced while making this film? 

Because it was my thesis film, I had 8 months to do the whole thing. Trying to figure out the best way to complete the whole film in a very short amount of time was difficult. Storyboarding and animating and editing, everything had to get done for a very hard deadline. I’m grateful for all the support I had which allowed me to focus so hard on my film.


What do you want audiences to walk away with after screening your film?

I would be happy if the audience felt uplifted. I think that when you think of a holocaust film, you’re expecting extreme heaviness and intensity, however I am hoping that my film is more uplifting than just pure sadness, and that out of the horrible adversity my grandmother faced, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and the audience should get a feeling of hope, for whatever hardships they’re facing.


Why do you think Washington, DC is a valuable location to screen your film?

I think Washington DC is a beautiful historical hub of so many important elements that make up North America’s history, which includes the Holocaust. In a time today where people are starting to unite on so many different fronts, a lot of eyes are on Washington DC, and I tried to make my film in a way that kept it present. By that I mean, holocaust films are films about events that happened years ago, and although my film takes place in 1945, the message of hope in the face of uncertainty, especially in the eyes of women, is very contemporary. Washington DC is the museum capitol of north America, with a world class Holocaust museum and is a destination that attracts people from all over the world to come and learn. For that, I’m grateful to be a part of the WJFF.


Still from Nana

What films or filmmakers have been the most influential to you?

While researching my film, I watched Persepolis, a beautiful film animated in such a beautiful way. As well, the Son of Saul film by Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes kept me focused on a specific tone when making my film. Wes Anderson has done a really great job of capturing a certain style of filmmaking and story telling, in both live action and animation, which was inspiring. The National Film Board of Canada was a great source of influence for me, with its roster of independent animation artists spanning decades, a lot of them with very distinct and beautiful styles.


Why are Jewish-interest films important today?

I think now especially is a time where Jewish films and films portraying Jewish people are very important because it gives an opportunity to the public to learn something about a religion not many know anything about. It allows for a way to show that Judaism is in fact a very beautiful community of people with beautiful traditions, no matter how religious you are, all over the world.

Watch Nana during the 28th Washington Jewish Film Festival.

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