Monday, May 21, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

"A Modest Suggestion" On 42nd Street!

"A Modest Suggestion" on 42nd St! Ken Kaissar's play (on which our film is based) is having a successful off-Broadway run at The Studio Theatre! I'd love to hear what you think of it, and how you feel it compares to the film. -Arnon Shorr

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Is this film anti-Semitic?

I received the following email earlier this week.

To Arnon Shorr:

We have seen your movie “A Modest Suggestion”. You asked us to comment on the movie. Our comments are as follows:
• I ordered the DVD because we believed in you and we wanted you to be honored with work that you created.
• The title of the movie is very deceiving.
• Had we known what it was about, we would have never purchased the movie.
• Now that we have seen the movie, we need to let you know our feelings about it.
o We believe the movie is very disturbing and anti Semitic.
o It gives very unsafe ideas to the world.
o How could any Jew possibly be associated with degrading the Jews as shown in the movie?
o How could any Jew make a movie about killing Jews?
o It appears in the movie that killing Jews was OK.
o This is very dangerous for Jews all over the world.
o As a holocaust survivor watching this movie, it was extremely upsetting.
o It has only been about 70 years since Hitler got the very same idea, Kill the Jews.
o We are very upset and concerned that all of the anti Semitics who watch this film will be encouraged to do what was shown in the film.
o The killer did not show remorse and the other three morons went along with him, making it appear that it was OK to kill Jews.
• Are these the ideas that you wanted to give to the world?
• What kind of lesson were you teaching the world?

On behalf of all of the Jews in the world, we strongly urge you to withdraw the film from circulation immediately.

In view of our comments above, we chose not to comment on the quality of the director’s and the producer’s work.

We hope you seriously consider the comments above and remove the film from circulation.



In my response, I explained the film's intended purpose. It is a satire, meant to lampoon anti-Semites by exposing the ridiculous illogic at the foundation of anti-Semitism. It's not an uplifting story of redemption and peace. It's a dark exposee: anti-Semitism often triumphs, even though it has no basis in truth. We are not removing the film from circulation. I thanked them for their candid letter, and invited further feedback.

That said, I've lost a lot of sleep these past few nights, bothered by this email. Ultimately, the meaning of a film has nothing to do with the director's intentions. It's the audience that must decide. Is "A Modest Suggestion" an anti-Semitic manifesto, or a satire on anti-Semitism? I know what I intended, but I don't think that matters nearly as much as what you see, and as such, I'm eager to read your comments here.

-Arnon Z. Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Michael Gabel honored for his work on "A Modest Suggestion"

Congratulations are in order to Michael Gabel -- he was just honored by the PEER Awards for his performance in A Modest Suggestion!

I'm honored to have had the opportunity to work with Michael, and to witness his process first-hand.

Congrats, Michael, for a very well-deserved award!

-Arnon Z. Shorr
Director, Producer,
"A Modest Suggestion"

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Discount on DVD for Blog Readers

Dear readers,

I want to take a moment to thank all of you for following our progress so closely, and for cheering us along as we brought this film through to completion.

As a token of gratitude, I'd like to offer you this discount on the DVD of "A Modest Suggestion" -- just type in the discount code: YTAUNN7H at the order page:

This offer will expire on 9/1/2011.

-Arnon Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"

"A Modest Suggestion" on DVD

On Friday, we officially announce the availability of "A Modest Suggestion" on DVD. This is an exciting time for any filmmaker, but for me, and for this film, it is especially important.

Since "A Modest Suggestion" represents a complex social commentary, it's not enough that it be entertaining. I do hope that its viewers find it entertaining, of course, but as a personal matter, I feel that its success is really rooted in how much it encourages conversation.

I grew up in a world that desperately needed conversation -- the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks of the early '90s were a sign of tremendous hope for me (I was still in grade school, still naiive, still faithful that the best of humanity would triumph over itself). It really looked like people were communicating, and that communication was moving us all forward.

Several years later, we all got a shocking reminder of just how poorly we were all communicating, when Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated. Even as Jews, our dialog with ourselves had broken down so terribly that even one of the ten commandments was no longer inviolable. As we've learned over the years, the Palestinians are no less unified, with opposing factions grappling for control of the territories, and of the peace process itself.

The issue of communication is not just a matter for Jews to consider. It is required in (and missing from) all sorts of foreign relations, not to mention our own political system in the United States (remember the debt crisis?)

Though I am still deeply committed to the virtue of communication, it won't solve every problem. Most of "A Modest Suggestion" describes a failed communication, a kind of communication that unravels and becomes selfish, blind, short-sighted and destructive. Communication is difficult. It can require a lot of hard work, a lot of careful analysis. It can break down, sometimes catastrophically. All we can hope for is that new conversations will arise from the rubble of the old.

I urge you to see "A Modest Suggestion" this week. If you don't want to buy a copy (here:, you can rent a digital copy on

Don't see it alone. See it with friends. Talk about it. And if you have a moment, let me know what you've discussed. Leave a comment here, and I'll do my best to respond.

-Arnon Z. Shorr
Director, "A Modest Suggestion"

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Understanding the Competition

Mark, Israel and I spent much of this past week-end taking in films and networking at the Maryland Film Festival. Mark, who recently launched the Mark Jaffee Film Fund, formally began his search for his next producing adventure at the fest.

Although we were all there for the same general reasons, my personal goal was to get a sense of the competition. What sorts of films made it in to the festival? What were their strengths? What were their weaknesses? Of course, at the back of my mind was the festival's surprising rejection of "A Modest Suggestion".

At the forefront of many critiques of "AMS" is the film's pace. It certainly isn't a racehorse, as far as films go, but is that really it? If there's one lesson I learned at the festival this year, it's that pace is not a factor, at least, not in this selection committee's eyes.

The festival included some particularly slow films, some of which had won high praise at other festivals around the world. These were narrative films, stories, and they were much longer than "AMS". One film, in particular, seemed to be cut exclusively of minute-long takes. In my most recent "Musing Pictures" blog post, I spent some time pondering some of my favorite long takes, using the del Toro film, "Chronos", as a springboard to thoughts on "Touch of Evil", "Rope" and other films. I love long takes when they're done well. At times, they can do more than a series of cuts to engage and energize an audience. Unfortunately, some of the slower films we saw didn't use long takes in that way. They seemed to invite contemplation, meditation and introspection. Unfortunately, they also inspired sleep. I don't think I've ever seen quite so many snoozing people in a movie theater.

So, why are films like that accepted to a film festival? (and yes, the back of my mind still nags, "why wasn't 'A Modest Suggestion' accepted?)

The conclusion I reached is a somewhat more nuanced version of "it's just dumb luck, kid. Get over it".

Every film that I saw at the festival had something - breathtaking cinematography, a unique viewpoint, unusual characters - that stood out in some way. Although some of the films did not speak to me at all, those stand-out elements must have spoken out to the festival's selection committee in some way. We all have our unusual interests. Long takes, for example. If I were a festival judge, I might vote to include a film with a particularly complex long take, whereas others might find fault in its narrative. The element of luck that plays in to the festival game is in how the selection jury's interests align with the film's particular quirks.

Some film festivals are known for having a certain 'character'. Other fests seem to have a different 'character' every year, depending on who's selecting the films. One year, a festival's lineup may include lots of gay/lesbian themed films. Another year, and the lineup features strong female leads. It's not necessarily a conscious decision, but a reflection of the selection committee's preferences, biases, and interests.

From the films I saw at MFF, I'd say the selection committee leaned towards films with great pictures, with characters whose moral center was blurry. Audio quality seemed less of an issue than the clarity or uniqueness of the picture. Narrative resolution seemed less important than the complexity of the journey.

Since most film festivals don't provide any feedback on the film when they reject it, this is really the first obscure insight I have in to the reception "A Modest Suggestion" has been receiving, and it gives me much hope.

"AMS" is a snarky, cynical satire, with characters that are not characters, but a group that caricatures the anti-Semitic mindset. It's wordy, intellectual, silly, and very dark. Getting it in to film festivals will require that enough people on the juries or selection committees be interested in this unusual sort of film.

Although it's disheartening to think that luck plays such a major role (rather than quality or significance), it leaves me with some hope for the film. Sure, it has its problems, but films with similar problems (or worse problems) have been accepted to some of the biggest festivals in the world. Here's to hoping the film falls in to the hands of a snarky, cynical festival judge who likes intellectual, wordy satires.

-Arnon Shorr