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November 08, 2012 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-11-08

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>> ... Next Generation ...

A Story-Telling


Former Metro Detroiter and filmmaker seeks funding for documentary.


Jason Zeldes

A still shot from the

ason Zeldes, 25, has been working
exclusively in documentary
filmmaking for the past four years,
racking up credits on several
feature films. The Metro Detroit native grew
up in Farmington Hills; he attended services
and became a bar mitzvah at Temple Israel.
He graduated from North Farmington
High School in 2005 and headed to the
University of Southern California's School of
the Cinematic Arts in Los Angeles, where he
studied documentary editing and directing.
"I come from a long line of Jewish
storytellers. My great-grandma, Dinah,
emigrated from Russia and regaled the
family with Yiddish stories from the old
country," said Zeldes, whose parents, Jeff
and Lisa Zeldes, live in Novi and own Levin's
Beauty Supply in West Bloomfield.
Since graduating, Zeldes has been
steadily rising through LA's documentary
community as a film editor. He recently
completed work on Morgan Neville's
upcoming music documentary titled Twenty
Feet From Stardom, and is now working on
his directorial debut, Romeo Is Bleeding,
for which he has launched a KickStarter
campaign to raise the initial $25,000 to get


the film's production under way.
His great-grandmother's storytelling
had a clear trickle-down effect on Zeldes.
"It led my aunt Laura Raynor (an Ann
Arbor native) to a career in storytelling, in
which she focuses on family and Jewish
themes," Zeldes said. "My generation is
comprised of writers, poets and filmmakers,
and we wrestle largely with social issues in
American society. My personal projects to
this point have been focused on family and
His current project, Romeo Is Bleeding,
focuses on the development of a community
and of open communication through a
group of creative writing students who
risk everything to inspire change in their
impoverished community.
"While these aren't overtly Jewish
themes, these are values that are deeply
ingrained in me through my upbringing in a
family of Jewish storytellers," Zeldes said.
Romeo Is Bleeding documents the
students of a Richmond, Calif., creative
writing group called RAW Talent (Richmond
Artists With Talent), who are no strangers to
trauma. Their city is small, but the homicide
rate is abnormally high, with teens killing

It's Back: Latke Vodka 8



fi ght years ago —
around the dawn
o Facebook — it
was a bar night
with a potato theme.
My, how it has grown.
From those first
Chanukah latke nights
hosted for "young adults"
in the community, the
annual social event has
blossomed into something
of a Jewish Detroit
phenomenon, reflecting
the spirit, the energy and momentum of a
new generation.
A homecoming for many and a
celebration in its own right, Latke Vodka
drew more than 700 attendees last year.
Building on its wild success, and thanks to
word-of-mouth and social networking, the
event is expected to attract as many as
1,000 people to the Royal Oak Theater on


November 8 « 2012

Nov. 24, the Saturday night after
"With thousands of young
Jewish Detroiters home for
the Thanksgiving weekend,
Latke Vodka has become the
place to be," says event co-chair
Michael Chosid. "If you're 21-
45 and looking to catch up with
old friends or looking to meet
someone new, Latke Vodka is
definitely the hottest spot in
town. With great music, dancing
and hors d'oeuvres, it's an event
not to be missed."

Much More Than A Party

It's not the food and beverages, how-
ever, nor the name of the band that
brings so many through the doors. Latke
Vodka has become a reflection of the
growing strength of the up-and-coming

documentary film
each other over turf
Romeo Is Bleeding
divisions between north
and central Richmond.
to pay
The students at RAW
for cinematographers, producers and
Talent have found their voices through
equipment to capture this story in the scope
spoken word poetry and are determined to
intended. The money also will go toward
change Richmond with their art.
travel and lodging, as well as miscellaneous
The film will follow the students and staff
costs of production. It will also help to pay
of RAW Talent as they prepare their biggest
for the establishment of post-production,
show to date, Te's Harmony, a modern re-
as he puts together a longer piece for
telling of Romeo and Juliet set in Richmond.
continued investment from other sources.
The Shakespearean masterpiece has been
Zeldes is passionately committed to
reworked into spoken word poetry and
seeing the project through. "This story is
Richmond vernacular, creating an allegory
especially appealing to me because I get to
for the conditions haunting Richmond and
collaborate with my cousin (and a fantastic
its young citizens.
poet in her own right), Molly Raynor, who
"When I heard the story of Te's Harmony,
founded the creative arts group that I'm
I was immediately compelled to drop
documenting in the film," Zeldes said.
everything and make a film. The more
"Hopefully, through our efforts, the tradition
progress we've made, the more committed
of storytelling can continue to trickle down
I've become to making sure I tell the story
to the next generation." ❑
of RAW Talent with the care they deserve,"
said Zeldes.
To contribute to Zeldes'
The KickStarter campaign (at press time)
KickStarter campaign, logon
had reached $16,000 of its $25,000 goal,
to www.kickstarter.com/
which must be met by Sunday, Nov. 18, in
order to receive the funding.
Zeldes said the $25,000 will allow him

Jewish community, celebrating, connect-
ing and working to welcome new faces
into the fold. Few other events bring so
many young Jewish Detroiters together.
Networking, shmoozing and community-
boosting are encouraged.
"Detroit Jews come from near
and far to be a part of Latke Vodka,"
says event co-chair Emily Pomish. "It is
not only an event to create awareness
of NextGen, but also a great way for
people to reconnect and create a stronger
community while just having a great

It's Good To Be Home

"You would be amazed how many 'expat
Detroiters' come home for Latke Vodka
each year," says Bryan Fenster, social
media strategist at the Jewish Federation.
Born and raised in Huntington Woods,
Fenster returned home just over a year
ago after a five-year stint in Chicago,
where his wife, Cara, finished her doctor-
ate degree.
"My heart has always been in Detroit,"
Fenster says. "The bond Cara and I feel

to our city, and really the region, can only
be described in one word: love. This is our
home. We are at an exciting stage in our
lives. The future is in our hands to make
this the city we want it to be. Latke Vodka
is a great way to celebrate that and to
join with the many peers who are on the
same mission. And, of course, to have a
fantastic time."
Will Latke Vodka 8 be the biggest and
the best ever? Show up and find out for
yourself. ❑

Vivian Henoch is a Web content
developer at the Jewish Federation of
Metropolitan Detroit.

Latke Vodka 8 takes place from
9 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at
the Royal Oak Music Theater. For
information, contact Rachel Lachover
at (248) 203-1485 or rachel@
communitynxt.com . Tickets are $20 in
advance; $25 at the door. Register at

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