A journey through time when the Jews were threatened by the Muslims and how one young man’s life changed when he escaped and helped others smuggle into Israel from Baghdad- based on a true story.
Narrator: Geoff Mays
Joseph/Elderly Man: Steve Rizzo
Youma: Elizabeth Rose Morriss
Performance of the first 2 pages of the script.
Get to know the writer:
1. What is your screenplay about?
Laura : It's the true story of how Joseph came of age in Babylon during WWII, when a brutal pogrom of violence against the Jews (the Farhud), forces him to smuggle aboard a riverboat to freedom in Israel––leaving his friends, family, and country behind. It's the story of how a mischievous, fun-loving boy became a man under extraordinary circumstances and not only survived, but thrived. But it's also about how Muslims and Jews lived in peace in the region for over two thousand years until the Farhud.
Joseph: It is about sharing the lessons of life. Facing broken dreams to build new ones. How to take failure and use it as a stepping stone to success. How you can learn from disappointment and use it to learn how to improve your life. Facing fate, the uncontrollable circumstances we all find ourselves in, and using resilience to not only survive those circumstances, but to thrive. Last Sunday I spoke at the Holocaust Museum to a room full of people. I was saying that university teaches you about life. When you see this movie you will learn how to live. Not only how to survive, but to thrive. To see all the difficulties and turn to resiliency, tenacity, and courage to overcome the unpredictable difficulties that we face.
2. What genres does your screenplay fall under?
3. Why should this screenplay be made into a movie?
Laura: I think that we can easily fall into this idea that we know all there is to know about period of history or about certain people, places, and situations. This story shows a surprising side of history most people don't know about and it can help to foster peace and understanding in the world.
Joseph: To share my life story so many people can learn and see what happened in the past and how we survived and especially the story of Jews who lived in Arab lands. There were nearly a million Jews. And now there are only 8,000 to 10,000 left. I want to share my story so that perhaps people can learn something about how to improve their lives and to work in harmony with other people.
This story has the potential to bring so much understanding and hopefully peace to the world because the movie would help people understand that Muslims and Jewish people were living in peace for a very, very long time for over 2000 years in the Arab world. Maybe it could happen again.
4. How would you describe this script in two words?
5. What movie have you seen the most times in your life?
Laura: Four Weddings & A Funeral
Joseph: My Fair Lady
6. How long have you been working on this screenplay?
7. How many stories have you written?
I've written 8 screenplays and 25 books in my career as a ghostwriter. I've recently written a book in my own name called Dear Laura: A Lost Chapter of WWII that explores the surprising, true story of what happened to my family who were all taken prisoner in Indonesia by the Japanese in WWII then taken to Japan. It is mostly told through letters my dad and I exchanged over three decades of correspondence. I am working on writing the screenplay now.
8. What is your favorite song? (Or, what song have you listened to the most times in your life?)
Laura: Somewhere Over The Rainbow
Joseph: My Way by Frank Sinatra
9. What obstacles did you face to finish this screenplay?
Laura: Thanks for asking this question, Matthew. The collaboration with Joseph to adapt his book, Beyond The Rivers Of Babylon, was a joy. We clicked immediately and had a wonderful creative journey together. At 92, Joseph has the energy and humor of someone half his age.
Because I write books, I enjoy adapting screenplays. I love and understand both formats well. What to include and exclude from the book and place into the screenplay was the major obstacle for me to overcome as the writer. Joseph is living an incredible life and he has amazing stories. His book covers Joseph's family history before his birth and follows him until the present day. We conceptualized telling the story in three parts: Paradise (before the Farhud), Paradise Lost (the Farhud, escape, refugee), Paradise Found (his new wonderful life in Israel, Canada and the U.S.). The structure was good, but the screenplay would have been three times as long. We decided to focus on his life as a boy and end the story with his escape from Iraq to Iran on a riverboat, and then to Israel. A great ending that is also a beginning.
Joseph: It was easy. We worked together well. We enjoyed our collaboration. There were no obstacles for me.
10. Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?
Laura :I'm passionate about spending time with my family, cooking, entertaining, skiing, hiking, boating.
Joseph: Family is the number one thing I am passionate about. Thank God I am really very proud that I have three children, which fulfilled my dream of education that I couldn't get. I have two children with PhDs and one is an MD.
11. You entered your screenplay via FilmFreeway. What have been your experiences working with the submission platform site?
Laura: I found it easy to use.
12. What influenced you to enter the festival? What were your feelings on the initial feedback you received?
Laura: Joseph and I are interested in getting Beyond The Rivers Of Babylon produced soon. We looked for festivals that we could enter that would get the word out about Joseph's story and generate interest in finding a production company interested in optioning the script and producing it.
The first time I submitted, the feedback was very helpful. There were some suggestions about how to make the screenplay better. Joseph and I went to work to incorporate the suggestions and made the necessary changes. We are grateful to the festival for their invitation to resubmit and their selection of Beyond The Rivers Of Babylon as winner.