Night Of Illumination!

Michael Witkes, Liev Schreiber, Barry Kaplan, Dr. Eric Goldman

It was during his return trip home from the Ukraine that Jonathan Safran Foer realized the past clarifies the present, a message conveyed during screenwriter/actor Liev Shreiber’s film “Everything is Illuminated” (2005).

The screening, which took place Thursday evening, was the first of a four-part series, “Encounters with Jewish Cinema” at the JCC of Mid-Westchester/Bendheim Performing Arts Center and moderated by JCC Film Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Eric Goldman.

Adapted from a book that began as a thesis at Princeton University, “Everything is Illuminated” was Schreiber’s directorial debut.

“When I met Jonathan Safran Foer (in 2002), he was 19 and had a 400-page manuscript,” Schreiber said during a post-screening discussion with Goldman. “I started writing the script, and three weeks later it was on the New York Times Best Seller List.”

In the book, Foer travels to Ukraine to seek Augustina, the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II. He is met at the airport by Alex (whose father runs a tour service in Odessa for Jews searching for their Ukrainian heritage) and Alex’s grandfather, who travel with him.

Schreiber chose the project because of his relationship with his own grandfather, Alex Milgram, and admitted the film is dark humor.

“He (Milgrim) pretty much raised me as if he was my father, and in many respects, he was my dad,” Schreiber said during a 2005 interview with “The Jewish Week.” “I didn’t know much about him, and after he died (in 1993), I tried to find out more.”

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