Bernstein's Wall

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TYPE
: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production

LOGLINE

BERNSTEIN’S WALL is an intimate look at the political and personal life of one of the 20th century’s most prominent icons

SYNOPSIS

Leonard Bernstein was more than a world-famous conductor. He was a lifelong activist, fiercely committed humanitarian and one of the most important cultural personalities of the 20th Century. Told in his own voice, BERNSTEIN’S WALL explores Leonard Bernstein’s journey as an artist and fighter for social change who inspired through his work.

ARTISTIC STATEMENT

Because the scope of Bernstein’s life is so extensive, I chose to focus this film on his political and social activism. This also allows me to explore the role of the artist in our society. What is the artist's role in creating change? How do we immerse ourselves in our work while seeking balance in our lives? These are ideas that challenged Bernstein during his life and that I contemplate in my own - they are important reasons why I want to tell this story. The cinematic language for our film uses archive to explore the world events that shaped Bernstein’s life and career. Almost every piece of visual archive has motion, which is unique for many of the eras covered in the film. We are using this footage in a way that mirrors the pace of Bernstein’s life, which like a symphony moves between furious excitement and quiet intimacy. Creating a visual language for our film means we are not only contemplating thousands of images but many other types of content. This challenge led me to find continuity with what I see as Bernstein’s most powerful instruments: his mind and voice. The majority of our story is told with Bernstein’s own words. He is our narrator, but instead of having an omniscient tone, the film feels as if he just walked into a bar, sat next to you, and shared his story and most intimate thoughts. Bernstein rarely was without drink or cigarette and always thinking. With the help of Bernstein’s last assistant, the Bernstein family, archivists and museum curators, we have found every audio and filmed recording of him talking about his philosophy, politics and personal life. Bernstein also wrote over 10,000 letters in his lifetime and this is where he chose to share his fears and concerns, particularly about McCarthyism, the Black List, his marriage and his sexuality. Curating this material is like choosing the songs for a great box set of someone’s favorite band. It must include the hits everyone knows as well as the b-side rarities and bootlegs in an effort to give a full view. One of the rarities that we use to create Bernstein’s monologue is a 25-hour interview conducted over the summer of 1968, when Bernstein invited a journalist friend to join him with his family on a vacation in Italy. These tapes allow us intimate access to Bernstein’s personal moments and beliefs.

KEY CREW

Douglas Tirola - Director
Douglas Tirola is an award-winning director and producer whose documentaries have been distributed around the world and have premiered at top film festivals—including Sundance, Tribeca, Berlin, HotDocs and SXSW. His directing credits include the Sundance film DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD (Magnolia Pictures), James Beard Award-nominated HEY BARTENDER (Netflix), AN OMAR BROADWAY FILM (HBO) and the Grand Jury Award-winning ALL IN – THE POKER MOVIE (Showtime). Douglas’ producing credits include: BISBEE ’17 (Sundance, New York Times “Ten Best Films of 2018,” POV), KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (Sundance Award Winner), and New York Times Critic’s Pick MAKING THE BOYS (Berlin, Tribeca). Douglas has also worked as a screenwriter for Paramount, Universal, Fox, Warner Brothers, Sony and New Line. Earlier in his career, he worked on films with director Robert Benton, Penny Marshall, and Mike Nichols. His first job in the film business was as a production assistant on the movie WHEN HARRY MET SALLY.

Susan Bedusa - Producer
Susan Bedusa is an award-winning producer whose most recent completed projects include BLOODROOT (DOC NYC, Grasshopper Film), BISBEE ’17 (Sundance, POV), BREWMASTER (SXSW, The Orchard) KATE PLAYS CHRISTINE (Sundance award winner) and DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON (Sundance, Magnolia Pictures, Showtime Networks). Her 14 feature documentaries have all premiered at top festivals including Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Hot Docs, and SXSW and have enjoyed US and international theatrical releases as well as runs on premium cable, global television and all streaming platforms. Some of her partners include Magnolia Pictures, The Orchard, HBO, Showtime, A&E IndieFilms, POV, Netflix, Amazon, MTV and the History Channel. Susan began her career working for producers Amy Robinson and Bob Balaban before becoming Director of Development for Fine Line Features founder Ira Deutchman. She grew up working and watching movies at her parents’ arthouse theate, the SoNo Cinema in Connecticut.

 

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ACCOLADES

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The Gotham Film & Media Institute - Fiscal Sponsorship Program 2021

 

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