U.S. envoy to Libya killed over anti-Muslim movie

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American diplomats were killed, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo was attacked over an anti-Muslim movie.

Amb. John Christopher Stevens and three unnamed diplomats were killed Tuesday night in a rocket attack on their car in Benghazi, the White House confirmed Wednesday morning.

On Tuesday evening, Egyptian protesters climbed over the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, pulled down an American flag, and then tried to set it alight.

The attacks follow the release online of an Arabic translation of a movie directed by Sam Bacile, a 56-year-old California real-estate developer, titled “Innocence of Muslims.”

[UPDATE: More information on “Sam Bacile” here]

The two-hour movie, which according to the Associated Press cost $5 million to make and was financed by more than 100 Jewish donors, attacks the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, making him out to be a fraud.

The film was screened one time at a movie theater in Hollywood, Bacile told the AP.

Bacile went into hiding on Tuesday night, speaking to international media from an undisclosed location.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the attack. “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind,” she said in a statement.

‘Catch A Fire’ ignites filmmaker’s memories of anti-apartheid dad

Shawn Slovo remembers how her Jewish parents, African National Congress activists, left home in the middle of the night to attend secret meetings. She recalls police regularly raiding their Johannesburg house and arresting her mother and father. All the while, she said, she resented “having to share my parents with a cause much greater than myself.”

Slovo grew up to become a screenwriter who honored her parents (and exorcised childhood demons) through her movies.

After her mother, Ruth First, was assassinated by a parcel bomb in the early 1980s, she wrote “A World Apart” (1988) about their volatile mother-daughter relationship.

When her father, Joe Slovo, who was chief of staff of the ANC’s military wing, described the black freedom fighter Patrick Chamusso, she penned “Catch a Fire,” which opens Oct. 27.

If “A World Apart” is a tribute to the writer’s mother, “Fire” salutes her father — albeit indirectly — who died in 1995.The thriller recounts how Chamusso, a foreman at South Africa’s Secunda oil refinery, remained apolitical until he was falsely accused of bombing a section of the refinery. After he and his wife were brutally interrogated and tortured, the African became politicized and left his home near the factory to offer his services to Joe Slovo’s guerilla unit in Mozambique. Using his inside knowledge, he told the guerillas he could raze the coal-to-oil refinery and keep it burning for days. With Slovo he created his plan to sneak back over the border, with mines strapped to his body, to furtively enter the factory on a coal conveyor belt. Chamusso only partially succeeded in his mission; he was arrested six days later and spent 10 years in prison on Robben Island. But his solo act raised morale among blacks struggling to overthrow the apartheid regime.

“It sums up the spirit of Joe,” Slovo’s younger sister, Robyn, the film’s producer, said in a telephone interview.

Although Joe Slovo was one of ANC’s top leaders and a close friend of Nelson Mandela, “he was a man who more than anything was interested in ordinary people,” the producer said. “And Patrick Chamusso was an ordinary working man who was completely uninterested in politics until he was terrorized into action.”

The producer denies that Chamusso was a terrorist, or that “Fire” glorifies terrorism.

“There’s nothing equivalent in Patrick’s actions and events taking place in the world today,” she said. “Our film is about the struggle of a man to achieve the right to vote, and democracy in a police state that ran on race lines. It’s much more like the American War of Independence than the suicide bombings in the Middle East.”

Shawn Slovo believes the movie, directed by Phillip Noyce (“Clear and Present Danger”), ties in to a filmmaking trend that would have pleased her father: The telling of an African story from the perspective of a black man rather than a white outsider (her father appears only briefly in the movie). Hollywood studios have released a number of such films this year, including Kevin MacDonald’s recent “The Last King of Scotland,” about Idi Amin. “Fire” has earned mostly good reviews, including one from the Canadian magazine Macleans, saying it “is certain to generate serious heat at the Oscars.”

For the screenwriter, the film is much more than an African espionage drama.

“The parallel for me is the way in which the political affects the personal, and how apartheid shattered and destroyed family life,” she said. “My engagement with the characters and the history has to do with my past, and my family’s past.”

In 1934, the 8-year-old Joe (born Yossel) Slovo immigrated to South Africa to escape pogroms in his native Lithuania. Four years later, he was forced to abandon school to help support his impoverished family, taking a factory job, which was where he first learned of the wage disparity between blacks and whites. He was further politicized while discussing Marxist politics with fellow Jewish immigrants who shared his ramshackle boarding house.

By age 16 he had joined the South African Communist Party and rejected Zionism in favor of his own country’s liberation movement. Even so, he considered himself “100 percent Jewish” and linked his work to the historical Jewish struggle for social justice, Robyn Slovo said.

At law school, he met First, daughter of Russian Jewish communists, and Nelson Mandela, with whom he helped found the ANC’s military wing in 1961. Slovo was abroad, two years later, when Mandela and others were arrested and sentenced to life in prison at Robben Island.Shawn was 13 that year, and she was desperate for her parents’ attention as her father vanished into exile; in retaliation for his disappearance, First was arrested and placed in solitary confinement, where she attempted suicide to avoid cracking under psychological torture. With her father labeled South Africa’s most wanted man and “Public Enemy No. 1,” Shawn was taunted at school, where even her Jewish best friend ostracized her. (Robyn and another sister were hounded as well.)

“A 13-year-old doesn’t understand politics; she just wants her parents,” the screenwriter said. “But I also felt guilty, because how could I complain about their absence when they were fighting for the liberation of 28 million blacks?”

After her mother’s suicide attempt, the family was allowed to immigrate to England, where Shawn Slovo insisted upon attending boarding school because she felt unsafe at home.

“It was also a rebellion, a reaction to the past turbulence,” she said. She entered the film business because “it was as far away from my parents’ work as I could get.”

During the rest of her childhood, Joe Slovo was mostly abroad in ANC training camps, reachable only through an intermediary or a fake name and address.

In the early 1980s, when she was in her 30s, she began to confront her parents about their devotion to politics over family. Joe declined to answer her questions, in his avuncular, matter-of-fact way: “His response was always, ‘This was in the past, let’s put it behind us and move forward,'” the screenwriter recalled.

Caouette’s Journey to Hell and Back

When gay Jewish filmmaker Jonathan Caouette was a preteen in Houston, he frequented sock hops at the Baptist church near his home. Invariably, church elders warned he was destined for hellfire: “And I would tell them that I was possessed by the devil,” Caouette, 31, said.

His tart reply wasn’t far from the truth, according to his new documentary memoir, “Tarnation,” named for an archaic term for “damnation.” The experimental self-portrait describes Caouette’s hellish childhood, during which he endured physical abuse, a mentally ill mother and brutal foster homes. The raw, hallucinatory film is compiled from 20 years of home movies, answering machine messages and snippets of underground films — all edited on a borrowed Apple computer for a total production cost of $218.32. Lauded as “a category-defying work of blistering originality,” by the Guardian and “astonishing” by The New York Times, it won best documentary at Los Angeles Film Festival and a 10-minute standing ovation at Cannes.

If the movie exposes Caouette’s childhood demons, it’s also steeped in a zeitgeist obsessed with public exorcisms performed on reality television programs and cringe-fests such as “The Jerry Springer Show.”

Caouette has been turning his life into a kind of reality TV from age 11, when he first pointed a camera at himself and his relatives. He recorded family arguments and performed impassioned monologues influenced by underground filmmakers such as John Cassavetes and Paul Morrissey. In one such sequence, he portrays a battered housewife, “essentially channeling my mother, who was being beaten by her second husband,” he said.

For the budding cinephile, the camera became a “protective force field, a means of controlling and validating the family chaos,” the boyish director said from his Queens, N.Y., apartment. “It was a grand way of saying, ‘Pinch me, but is this for real?'”

The reality was that Caouette was living with his overwhelmed grandparents as his mother, Renee, was repeatedly hospitalized for acute bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. A former child model, she had suffered mental illness since undergoing electroshock therapy following a childhood accident. During a manic period, she whisked 4-year-old Jonathan off to Chicago, where she was kidnapped and raped.

“I remember cowering under a bed while she was being strangled,” the filmmaker said.

Back in Houston, Renee went on a rampage, breaking windows throughout the neighborhood with Jonathan in tow. The boy was promptly placed in a series of foster homes where he was sometimes tied up and beaten. When his grandparents assumed custody two years later, they attempted to curb his wild behavior by enrolling him in a highly structured Jewish day school.

“But I didn’t have the attention span to sit through the long day or to retain a new language, Hebrew,” he said. “I was a mess of a child already at 6.”

It didn’t help that Caouette felt like an alien while visiting his classmates’ pristine Jewish homes.

“Our house had gum all over the floor, like a New York subway, and rat droppings all over the beds,” he said.

His wealthy Jewish relatives eventually stopped inviting him to holiday celebrations.

The discord turned Caouette into an angry preteen who staged suicide attempts and hit his grandparents. After smoking PCP-laced joints at 12, he was hospitalized eight times for a depersonalization disorder that made him feel like he was disconnected from his body and living “in a constant state of unreality.”

Former Houston Chronicle film critic Jeff Millar, who became Caouette’s big brother in 1984, remembers walking through his home and noting “broken mirrors and holes where Jon had punched through the wall.”

“I felt he might be capable of making a bad decision that could kill him,” Millar said. “But I also saw that he was innately talented and that he had a rigorous film aesthetic. I felt that if he managed to get through what was sure to be a troubling adolescence, he would do something creatively spectacular.”

Caouette proved Millar right two years ago, when he decided to turn his 160 hours of home video into a film. He had nursed Renee back to health after a lithium overdose and hoped to create a cathartic piece about their relationship.

An early version of the movie convinced filmmakers John Cameron Mitchell and Gus Van Sant to sign on as executive producers and secured a slot at New York’s 2003 MIX Film Festival. But as Caouette sat next to Renee at the screening, he worried he had made a terrible mistake.

“I wondered if I had exploited her, exploited all of us,” he said.

As patrons embraced him after the screening, Caouette began to change his mind. He now views the movie as a healing trip to Tarnation and back: “It’s the story of people going through hell and coming out OK, sort of,” he said. “It’s still not entirely OK, but it’s better than it’s ever been.”

“Tarnation” opens today in Los Angeles.

Roasting Woody Allen — Gently

One could call “Who Killed Woody Allen?” a “benign revenge comedy.” Co-authors Tom Dunn, Dan Callahan and Brendan Connor wrote the whodunit after Allen allegedly withdrew the rights to his play, “Death,” from their theater company in 2001. The playwrights say they had already rented a theater, hired 15 actors and were a week into rehearsal when they received the news. “So we decided to move from Woody Allen’s ‘Death’ to Woody Allen’s death,” Dunn said.

The black comedy is set at Allen’s funeral, with his celebrity friends as suspects. But it’s more of an homage than a roast. (Number of Soon-Yi gags: one.)

“We’re huge Woody fans, and we respect him too much to take potshots,” Connor said.

“We’re comedy writers in large part because of his influence,” Dunn said.

In fact, the 32-year-old authors have been in love with Allen’s films since they attended Holy Trinity High while growing up in Levittown, N.Y. The childhood friends viewed Allen movies together such as “Mighty Aphrodite” and “Manhattan Murder Mystery.”

Of why these Irish Catholics admire the Jewish auteur, Connor said, “It’s hysterical the way he captures uniquely New York neuroses.”

Dunn, for his part, said, “We really connected to Woody’s thoughtful absurdist humor. We drew on that when we started doing improvisational comedy together in high school.”

The friends moved from improv to sketch comedy to founding their Empty Stage Theatre Company around 2000. The goal was to produce lesser-known works by well-known authors; after staging an obscure David Mamet piece, the Allen fans set their sights on “Death.” According to Dunn, Allen granted the rights to one production but declined when the opening dates changed. “We were totally shocked,” Dunn said.

Eventually the “Death” rights issue inspired a play about Allen’s last rites; but the piece doesn’t dis Allen. In fact, the authors invited the filmmaker to opening night, assuming he’d get a kick out of the tribute. Instead, they received a letter from Allen’s attorney, Irwin Tenenbaum: “Mr. Allen appreciates your invitation but is unable to attend,” states the letter, which The Journal viewed on a Web site. “Since I have not read the play and am unfamiliar with its contents, I trust that you have adhered to and stayed within the parameters of applicable law with regard to the use of my client’s name and character. I reserve all of my client’s rights with regard to this project, should events prove otherwise.”

Actually, the play makes relatively few references to Allen. Rather, it focuses on the shenanigans of the funeral’s self-absorbed celebrity guests, who include a stammering Diane Keaton (Jillann Dugan), a kvetchy Alan Alda (Ed Moran) and a creepy Christopher Walken (Peter Loureiro). The stars pay their last respects rather disrespectfully, treating the service like a photo-op, a chance to glean publicity and promote their films.

The funeral itself is structured like an awards ceremony, with Oscar host Billy Crystal (Christopher Wisner) as emcee. “Sitting shiva, cover the ‘mirra,’ it’s going to be a Jewish funeral tonight,” Crystal sings in an Oscar-style medley. The stars continue their shameless mugging even as a detective arrives to interrogate them (we’re told Allen’s ex, Mia Farrow, has been cleared because she was in Angola at the time of the murder, “auditioning children to adopt.”)

“The play is a satirical take on celebrity culture,” Dunn said. “Of course, we’re spoofing what we want the most — celebrity — and the irony isn’t lost on us.”

“Who Killed Woody Allen?” is apparently moving the authors closer to that goal. The play ran for eight months off-Broadway, earned rave reviews and will have its Los Angeles debut Sept. 22, directed by Dunn, with most of the original cast in tow.

The co-authors, meanwhile, are pitching TV and film projects, including the movie rights to “Who Killed Woody Allen?” “We even asked Woody if he was interested in directing,” Dunn said. “But we haven’t received a response.”

“Who Killed Woody Allen?” runs Sept. 22-Oct. 3 at the Improv Olympic West Theater, 6636 Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood. For tickets, $18, and information, call (323) 960-4412 or visit www.plays411.com/wkwa.

For more information about the play, visit www.whokilledwoodyallen.com .

Stalin’s Jewish State

When Yale Strom was growing up in a traditional,socialist-Zionist home in Detroit, he was riveted by his father’s tales of aJewish state founded 20 years before Israel in a Siberian swamp.

Three decades later, he remembered the obscure Jewishgeography lesson to make the intriguing documentary, “L’Chayim, ComradeStalin!” about the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) founded by Stalin in 1928.

Papa Joe’s motivations weren’t altruistic; he hoped topopulate the Chinese front and to funnel Zionist dollars into the U.S.S.R. Butat least 40,000 Jews made the gruelling, 5,200-mile journey to build a Yiddishmecca in waist-deep mud and snow. They were successful, in part, untilStalin’s purges closed most Yiddish institutions and sent residents off toGulags from 1948 to 1953.

Musician-filmmaker Strom — whose documentaries aboutvanishing Jewish culture have carved a niche in the Yiddish revival movement –retraced the journey when he boarded the Trans-Siberian railroad and made theweek-long trek to Birobidzhan in 2000. He alighted in the world’s only railroadstation with Yiddish-language signs, although finding Yiddishkayt provedelusive in a region where less than 6,000 Jews remain. Eventually, he visitedthe local synagogue, the Yiddish newspaper and the capitol’s main thoroughfare,still called Sholom Aleichem Boulevard.

He interviewed local Jews and recorded conversations withhis suavely anti-Semitic interpreter, Slava, who turned out to be the grandsonof the high-ranking official who originated the idea of a JAR.

So was the JAR a Yiddish utopia or a Jewish reservation, thedocumentary asks. Strom and his wife, “L’Chaim” writer-producer ElizabethSchwartz, think it’s both: “It’s historically significant as a Jewish statefounded on Yiddish secularism,” Schwartz said. “But it’s also a bit like thefake TV suburb in the film, ‘Pleasantville,’ where everything seems perfect,but realities start to bleed through.”

Strom, nevertheless, maintains his youthful fascination withwhat he calls “the first Jewish state established since 70 B.C.E.” “These werepioneers who made aliyah to the end of the world,” he said.

The film opens March 5 in Los Angeles. Strom will alsoperform with his jazz-infused klezmer band, Klazzj, at the Workmen’s CircleMarch 9. For information, call (310) 552-2007. Strom’s “The Book of Klezmer:The History, the Music, the Folklore” (A Cappella Books, $28) is now in stores.

Funny ‘Guys’

In between schmoozing with kids for his acclaimed Fairfax High documentary "Senior Year" in 1998, filmmaker David Zeiger hung out with the funny old guys who did lunch with his dad on Tuesdays at the Mulholland Tennis Club.

The result is his new doc, "Funny Old Guys," which captures the lively interaction of a dozen Jewish octogenarian TV writers who kibitz and kvetch over Cobb salad and chicken soup.

The Algonquin Round Table it isn’t. Instead, the guys reminisce about working for shows from "Bonanza" to "The Brady Bunch," tell off-color jokes and argue about subjects such as the early days of TV to the state of their prostates. The film takes a serious turn when one of the guys gets cancer.

David Shaw, a veteran of 1950s TV dramas, and Frank Tarloff ("The Dick Van Dyke Show") describe how they met at age 12 while living on the same street in Brooklyn. They became writers when Shaw came out to Los Angeles to visit his brother, novelist Irwin Shaw, met Irwin’s writer friends and then told Tarloff, "We’re funnier than they are."

But the youths didn’t have artsy ambitions. "Like all the guys, they grew up poor, the sons of immigrants," Zeiger told The Journal. "There wasn’t money for medical school, so they became writers to make a good living."

Zeiger’s dad, Irv, a businessman, the only non-writer at the weekly meetings, met the guys at the tennis club in the 1960s. "But I didn’t pay any attention to them, because I kind of saw them as ‘old farts,’" says Zeiger, 52, who was more interested in counterculture politics.

When he rediscovered the "Guys" in 1998, he says he "had an epiphany that these were the guys who had created the TV shows I grew up with. I also wanted to learn how they were facing life’s biggest challenge: The End."

Zeiger and "Guys" will appear at a Museum of Television and Radio screening on Sept. 4. For more information, call (310) 786-1000.

Fade to Black

Two Jewish pioneers of the popular culture, comedian Milton Berle and director Billy Wilder, died last week in Los Angeles.

Wilder, who fled the Nazis to become one of Hollywood’s greatest (and most caustic) filmmakers, died of pneumonia March 27. He was 95.

Berle, the stogie-smoking vaudevillian who became America’s first TV star, died March 27 after battling colon cancer. He was 93.

Six-time Oscar winner Wilder, whose protagonists were often alcoholics or gigolos, grew up in his family’s Galacian hotel, where, he said, he "learned many things about human nature, none of them favorable." As a cocky journalist-turned-screenwriter in Berlin in 1933, he sold his belongings for a few hundred dollars and was on a train to Paris the day after the Nazis burned the Reichstag. Arriving penniless in Hollywood a year later, he taught himself English by listening to the radio, but had less success convincing his relatives to leave Europe. When he returned to Germany to help de-Nazify the theater in 1945, he discovered that his stepfather, mother and grandmother had died in Auschwitz. When a director asked if a Nazi could play Jesus in a passion play, he replied, "Permission granted, but the nails have to be real."

Wilder went on to write and direct movies that exposed the darkest recesses of human nature, dissecting the underbelly of American life in classics such as "Double Indemnity" and "Sunset Boulevard." The versatile filmmaker also triumphed in the genre of farce ("Some Like It Hot") and sophisticated romantic comedies such as "Sabrina" and "The Seven Year Itch."

Wilder is survived by his wife, the former Audrey Young; and daughter, Victoria.

Berle, dubbed "Uncle Miltie" and "Mr. Television" for addicting Americans to the tube, was born Mendel Berlinger, the son of Moses and Sarah (aka Sadie), in a five-story Harlem walk-up in 1908. One of his earliest memories was of his Jewish mother bouncing him on her knee and telling him, "Make me laugh." By the age of 5, young Berle — spurred by stage mother Sadie — had won a children’s Charlie Chaplin look-alike contest. By 13, he’d changed his Jewish last name and was performing vaudeville on Broadway.

After decades of working as a top theater and nightclub performer, Berle was hired to bring his irreverent brand of humor to NBC’s variety show, "Texaco Star Theater" in 1948. He promptly drew fans for gags such as prancing in drag, grinning to reveal blackened teeth and dubbing himself "The Thief of Bad Gags."

After his television reign ended in the 1960s, Berle went on to make movies such as 1963’s "It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World," play himself in Woody Allen’s 1984 comedy "Broadway Danny Rose" and make numerous guest appearances on TV shows like "The Love Boat" and "Beverly Hills, 90210."

In later years, he appeared as a master of ceremonies at celebrity roasts and was a fixture at the Friars Club, where he served as president and laid on the Jewish shtick. "You’re probably wondering why we’re roasting Mickey Rooney," he said during one affair. "It’s because we ran out of Jews!"

Berle was buried at Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles and is survived by his wife, the former Lorna Adams; son, William; daughter, Victoria (Mike) Walton; stepdaughters, Susan (Richard) Moll and Leslie (Ron) Sweet; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Catch a Rising Star

Elizabeth Berkley’s audition with filmmaker Woody Allen for a part in his latest comedy, "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion," resembled a scene out of an "I Love Lucy" episode.

All the actress knew about the highly secretive project was its setting: the 1940s. So, eager to impress Allen and get the part, she had her hair done in a Veronica Lake style for their highly anticipated meeting.

As she walked the few blocks to the director’s New York office, a sudden downpour engulfed the streets of Manhattan.

By the time she reached her destination, Berkley was drenched. "It was like I had just come out of a shower," she recalls. "I was that soaked.

Despite the inauspicious beginning, Berkley soon got a call to report for makeup and wardrobe for "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion."

Berkley plays another classic staple of 1940s films: the sexy secretary. "She’s the office girl that all the men want," Berkley says, "but she’s the one who always goes home alone at night."

Playing the good girl on the big screen is a nice change for the 5-foot-10-inch Berkley, best known for her role as Nomi Malone, a topless Las Vegas stripper/lap dancer, in the NC-17-rated "Showgirls," which launched her feature-film career among a swirl of controversy and poor reviews in 1995. It followed a more than three-year stint as Jessie, the girl-next-door, on the popular Saturday-morning TV sitcom "Saved by the Bell."

Allen also that the actress had a flair for comedy.

"I thought she could be funny, that she had the ability. This is a girl who’s got a very sort of perky quality, and she’s sexy and she’s got a lot of energy, and if she’s used correctly, she can be a very funny actress. All she needs is a couple of chances to show that," Allen says.

"I only had a small thing to offer her in this film, but perhaps along the line, I’ll have something more substantial for her, and I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to cast her because she’s got that energy."

Experienced filmmaker that he is, Allen may be fully cognizant of Berkley’s acting potential, but it’s doubtful he realizes she’s Jewish.

"He doesn’t know," Berkley admits.

"I still remember the beginning of my Haftorah," says Berkley, who, growing up, attended Adat Shalom Synagogue in Farmington Hills, Mich. and celebrated her bat mitzvah at Beth Abraham Hillel Moses — now Congregation Beth Ahm — in West Bloomfield, both Conservative congregations in the Detroit suburbs.

"People say to me, ‘Why is that?’ And I say, ‘Because I’ve had to sing it for people to prove to them [I’m Jewish]. I don’t know why. It’s just a funny thing. That or the Four Questions or ‘Dayenu.’"

Berkley now attends the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles with her parents, Fred and Jere Berkley, who moved to the West Coast when Berkeley was 15.

"I’ve taken singing lessons [there] from Cantor Nathan Lam for quite a few years, so that’s where we’ve gone for the High Holidays," Berkley says. "I love the services there."

She’s also attended services at Synagogue for the Performing Arts in Los Angeles, where she finds Rabbi Joseph Telushkin "pretty inspiring."

But it was back home in Michigan that Berkley developed her strong family values and a love for Judaism that guided her.

"Not only am I grateful for my family, but there’s a real love I have for growing up Jewish, and where I grew up, because there’s a foundation that it’s given me in these crazy kind of worlds that I might come across," says the actress.

"And I have to say, it doesn’t ever leave me. I could be sitting next to someone and be in conversation or see that [the person] has a Jewish star on, and instantly, it’s just a comfort. You can go anywhere in the world, and it’s an immediate, immediate feeling of home."

Unveiling Secrets

Filmmaker Pola Rapaport grew up in a family of secrets.

Her psychiatrist father never spoke of his life before meeting Pola’s mother. He never spoke of his family. He never mentioned that he was Jewish, though Pola figured that out when he took her to Yom Kippur services when she was 10. And just before he died of cancer in 1972 — Pola was then 16 — his last words to his wife were, "Be discreet."

Rapaport, who calls her father’s death "the greatest trauma of my life," unravels the mystery in her acclaimed documentary, "Family Secret," to air July 2 on the Sundance Channel.

Her detective work began around 1982, when she rifled through her father’s desk and found a small photograph of a beautiful, dark-haired boy hidden away in a drawer. On the back of the photo, there was a tender inscription in French: "Hugs and kisses, Pierre."

"Immediately, I was struck by the boy’s resemblance to my father," says Rapaport, now 45. "From that moment on, I felt convinced I had a brother somewhere."

But the award-winning filmmaker had no idea how to pursue the mysterious Pierre — until her mother received an odd letter, postmarked Bucharest, in the spring of 1998. "It began, ‘I am looking for the trace of Dr. Ionel Rapaport’s family’ and it was signed, ‘Pierre Radulescu-Banu,’" the filmmaker recalls. "I gasped and wondered, ‘Could it be the same Pierre from Daddy’s photograph?’" Two weeks later, Pierre, a middle-aged computer scientist, confessed he was her half-brother. Within the month, the New York filmmaker, with her camera, was on a plane to Bucharest. Pierre met her at the airport, "holding a little bouquet of flowers and looking forlorn," Rapaport recalls. He told his half-sister that he was essentially alone in Romania because his wife had died, and his son had moved to America.

In the car on the way out of the airport, he described how he had unraveled his own family secret.

His journey, like Pola’s, began with the discovery of a photograph — in his case, a picture of Dr. Ionel Rapaport. Eventually, he found a copy of his father’s obituary and spent years trying to track down his two half-sisters, who were mentioned in the article. Then, in May 1998, he found an important clue scrawled on a yellowed slip of paper in one of his mother’s books: Dr. Rapaport’s last known address. Immediately, he mailed off a letter and nervously awaited a response.

"It was the most difficult [time] of my life," because you could reject me, and then I would be destroyed," Pierre tells Pola in the film.

"Family Secret" follows Pola and Pierre as they travel from New York to Paris to Bucharest to gather information about their father. They discover that Dr. Rapaport left his hometown of Buzau, Romania, to study medicine in Paris when he was 17. During World War II, he eluded the Nazis by posing as a Christian and began a torrid affair with Pierre’s mother, a non-Jew. Ultimately, despite the birth of their son, he declined to marry her because of the religious difference.

After Pierre and his mother were repatriated to Romania in 1948, Dr. Rapaport cut off all contact with his son — ostensibly, so Pierre wouldn’t suffer anti-Semitism behind the Iron Curtain.

While Pola and Pierre still have many unanswered questions about their father, they say making "Family Secret" was cathartic. "It was a way to bring our elusive father back into the present, at least for a time," Pola explains.

Yet the message of the film, she insists, is universal. "It shows that when a secret comes out, it doesn’t destroy a family, but makes it stronger," she says.

Satan in the Shtetl

“Great-grandma was a naughty girl,” says British filmmaker Ben Hopkins, whose feature debut, “Simon Magus,” is the tale of a Polish shtetl in peril.

The iconoclastic director’s single Jewish ancestor was the Eastern European mistress of an English gentleman in Vienna; in the 1910s, she moved to England to live with him and bear him (and other men) children. Her convent-educated daughter did not learn she was Jewish until she planned to marry. “Great-grandma told her she couldn’t wed in church, because she was Jewish,” says the Oxford graduate, who was raised as an atheist.

Nevertheless, around 1990, Hopkins says, “the Jews sitting around the samovar in our collective DNA came to life.” Grandmother began referring to herself as a Jew; father, an ancient historian, immersed himself in studies about first- and second-century Judaism; and Hopkins made an unexpected entry in his journal: “Make ‘Simon Magus’ a Jewish story.” “It was obviously written when I was drunk, as it is very scribbly,”confides the irreverent, award-winning filmmaker.

“Simon Magus,” the tale of a visionary outcast (Noah Taylor) who becomes a pawn in an anti-Semitic plot against his Jewish community, has an eerie, magical atmosphere reminiscent of the works of Yiddish author I.B. Singer. The movie, which stars Rutger Hauer and Embeth Davidtz (“Schindler’s List”) was inspired by the early Christian legend of Simon Magus, the Samaritan magician who attempted to buy himself a place among Christ’s disciples after Judas’s death. Hopkins, the struggling director, identified with the failed magician: “It quite accurately described my life at the time,” he says.

A coup for the director was casting prominent British thespian Ian Holm as Satan, a part that was relatively simple to write, Hopkins says.

“The devil is a fantastic character,” he explains. “God is a bit boring.”

“Stuart Magus” opens today at the Nuart in Los Angeles.

Stanley Kramer, 87

Legendary filmmaker Stanley Earl Kramer, best known for films such as the classic western "High Noon," died on Feb. 19 of pneumonia. He was 87.

Born in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen on Sept. 29, 1913, Kramer was among the pioneer independent producers, working outside the studio system to finance his socially conscious films. After working at MGM, he started his own production company in 1947. Kramer’s first film, "So This Is New York," flopped, but he scored with subsequent projects — 1949’s "The Champion," and "Home of the Brave," addressing anti-Semitism in the armed forces.

Kramer’s distinguished filmography also includes "The Wild Ones" (1954) with Marlon Brando; 1958’s "The Defiant Ones" with Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier; "Inherit the Wind" (1960); and "Judgment at Nuremberg" (1961), about the Nazi war-crimes tribunal. Kramer also made the ambitious, three-hour-plus comedy epic "It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (1963), famous for a marathon celebrity roster that included Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Phil Silvers, Jonathan Winters, and Don Knotts.

After his last feature, 1979’s "The Runner Stumbles," flopped, Kramer moved his family to Seattle, where he taught at the University of Washington and wrote a weekly column for The Seattle Times. Seven years later, he returned to Hollywood and unsuccessfully tried to launch features on Lech Walesa and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. While the nine-time nominated Kramer never won an Academy Award, four actors did win Oscars® for roles in his films: Katharine Hepburn for "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner"; Maximilian Schell for "Judgment at Nuremberg"; Gary Cooper for "High Noon"; and Jose Ferrer for "Cyrano de Bergerac."

Kramer was residing in the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills when he passed away. He is survived by Karen Sharpe Kramer, his wife of 35 years; and two daughters.

Woody Allen Comes Clean

“People think I’m being facetious when I say I once toyed with a life of crime,” filmmaker Woody Allen recently told 1,400 students, professors and alumni during a standing-room-only screening of his new comedy, “Small Time Crooks,” at UCLA’s Wadsworth Theater.

The life-of-crime idea came after Allen, a poor student in high school, discovered he couldn’t make the height requirement to join the NYPD. “So I considered becoming a criminal, where there were no height requirements whatsoever,” he said. “I thought of being a swindler, maybe a bookmaker, maybe I’d go into schemes or clever burglaries. I saw myself on boats and cruises, cheating people at card games or cleverly cracking safes.”

All the while, he said, he was the kind of “kid in the movie house who yells up at the screen, annoyingly, purportedly funny things.” On a lark, Allen wrote some jokes, sent them “to somebody who was peripherally involved in show business,” and a month later was working in comedy. “All those elaborate plans to become a master criminal went out the window,” confides Allen, who instead channeled his crime fantasies into caper films like “Take the Money and Run.” Allen concedes he is lucky: “I would now be doing time if I weren’t funny,” he said.

Of course, the event’s moderator, Esquire’s Bill Zehme, had to ask Woody why he hates L.A. Allen responded that he always teases things he loves, though he could never live here. “I like a gray, nervous, concrete city,” he said.

Nevertheless, Allen feels affection for the smoggy city, which was where all his childhood movie heroes lived and where he filmed the giant breast scene from “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask.” L.A. is where he got to know Groucho Marx, who was “the kind of elderly Jewish man that you’d meet at a Bar Mitzvah, who’d shake your hand with a $50 bill in it and make wisecracks.”

Of course, the then-young comedian couldn’t resist a few morbid musings about Marx: “I thought, ‘If I really become famous, this is what it is in the end. You lose your teeth and your hair and you’re making wisecracks to waitresses.'”

Allen may be concerned about losing his hair and his teeth, but he’s not a hypochondriac, he insists; he’s merely an “alarmist.” “If I have chapped lips, I think I have a brain tumor,” he said. “I cut right to the worst possible scenario.” Allen whipped out a silver pill box containing eight pills: “It’s an assortment of pharmaceuticals rivaling the Merck company,” he revealed. “I take them everywhere. I don’t like to feel that God forbid, I should be anywhere I can’t lay my hands on something that will ameliorate suffering.”Another revelation from Allen: He admitted he lied for years about why he never attended the Oscars. It wasn’t because the ceremony fell on the same night he performed with his jazz band. “I just don’t like to fly,” he said. “And why should I travel 3,000 miles to sit nervously in an audience and I can’t get my car out of the parking lot at the end?”

The Kubrick Legacy

The news of director Stanley Kubrick’s death in England is a premature finis to an unprecedented career in film.

To legions of fans and wannabe filmmakers, the 70-year-old filmmaker was a master. More than Welles, Hitchcock, Ford, Lean or Kurosawa, all of who received the Director’s Guild Lifetime Achievement nod, he was in sole control of his world both on and offscreen — unheard of then and definitely unheard of now.

For an actor, a summons to work with Kubrick was the imprimatur on a career.

Tom Cruise, at the height of his Hollywood bankability, and his wife, actress Nicole Kidman, were supposedly ecstatic to give almost two years and a relocation to London for the making “Eyes Wide Shut.” A reputed slave driver on the set, Kubrick’s death from a heart attack instantly gives “Eyes” event film status.

If the film, shot with Kubrick’s customary obsessiveness, rises to the level of “Spartacus,” “2001, a Space Odyssey” and “A Clockwork Orange,” his reputation will be safe.

Kubrick would never have been accused of being a warm person. He viewed the world with a sardonic, even cruel detachment.

The son of a Jewish doctor, the Bronx-raised Kubrick moved in what was virtually an all-Jewish circle. Many Jewish kids during that time wanted nothing more than to belong to the mainstream, to become a “real American.” Kubrick wasn’t interested. He didn’t join any school clubs, or show up for football games. He wasn’t even academically driven.

On the occasion of his being honored by the Director’s Guild with its D.W. Griffiths Lifetime Achievement Award, Kubrick, the man Oscar-nominated a dozen times, joked, “Anyone who has ever been privileged to direct a film knows that, although it can be like trying to write ‘War and Peace’ in a bumper car in an amusement park, when you finally get it right, there are not many joys in life that can equal the feeling.”

After working as a photographer for Look Magazine in the late 1940s, Kubrick made his film directorial debut with a 16-minute boxing documentary “Day of the Fight.”

His first feature film, “Fear and Desire,” was made in 1953 for a meager $100,000. He followed up his debut with noir classics like “The Killer’s Kiss” and “The Killing.”

In 1960, Kubrick made “Spartacus,” starring Kirk Douglas. Originally intended for director Anthony Mann, the Hollywood epic wasn’t really Kubrick’s style, and he complained about its “pretty dumb script.” But under his direction, “Spartacus” proved that a historical epic could involve real emotions and believable human beings.

In 1961, Kubrick went to England to make “Lolita,” and decided to stay. Fear of flying restricted Kubrick’s movements and, by the late 1960s, kept him isolated in a walled mansion outside of London, where he found sanctuary and anonymity. But his anxieties didn’t limit his artistic courage. From that time on, he made his films according to his own set of rules: No studio interference.

From his empire outside London, Kubrick crafted some of his most important films, including “Dr. Strangelove,” and “A Clockwork Orange,” in which he anticipated an urban future of violent youth.

Whether dubbed a success or failure, every Kubrick film was different. From 1980’s “The Shining,” with its dark claustrophobic hotel and Jack Nicholson’s disturbing star turn, to 1987’s “Full Metal Jacket,” a Vietnam horror story, Kubrick illustrated a leap inconceivable to any other director.

Kubrick’s relationship to World War II and the Holocaust was complicated. After marrying two Jewish women — the first his high school sweetheart, the second an Austrian refugee ballerina — he wed German actress Christiane Harlan, whom he met when he cast her as a young German girl in “Paths of Glory.” The daughter of two opera singers and third generation of a family of musicians and artists, Harlan had also been a member of Hitler Youth, and her uncle made the infamous Nazi propaganda film “Jew Suss.”

Nevertheless, Kubrick was proceeding with his film project on the Nazi conquest of Europe. He acquired a suitable property — Louis Begley’s 1991 novel “Wartime Lies,” set in Poland. He was to have begun shooting in Denmark in 1994 when Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” pre-empted him — just as Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” had stolen “Full Metal Jacket’s” thunder.

The project was dropped and Kubrick moved on to “Eyes Wide Shut.” According to Warner Bros. executives who viewed the final cut just a few weeks ago, Kubrick deemed the film complete. Early obituaries have quoted Kubrick as being ecstatic over the film, considering it his best. Nothing better characterized Kubrick than the hoary old Hollywood joke that gets updated for each generation of young filmmakers:

“Steven Spielberg dies and goes to heaven. Greeted by St. Peter, he spots a man with a thick beard, thinning hair and glasses pedaling a bicycle.

Spielberg: Isn’t that Stanley Kubrick?

St. Peter: No that’s God. He only thinks he’s Stanley Kubrick.”

Ivor Davis, who writes a weekly column distributed worldwide by The New York Times Syndicate, has covered the entertainment industry for more than 25 years.

“Girl Power”

Cult filmmaker Sarah Jacobson can one-up any L.A. Jewish reader who felt like an outcast in high school.

Her small-town Minnesota classmates told her she was going to burn in hell. “Everyone was really blond,” adds Jacobson, now 27. “It was like L.A., except in Minnesota, people are born that way.”

At Jacobson’s synagogue, meanwhile, “people were totally materialistic.”

And so, alienated from both sides of the mainstream, the honor student gravitated toward the fringe, driving her mom’s station wagon into Minneapolis to hang around the punk rock scene.

The filmmaker describes her teen angst in “Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore,” her gritty, ultra-low budget, sexually explicit film about a smart, suburban young Jewish woman in search of cool punk friends (and good sex) at the local B-movie theater.

Ranked by Spin magazine as one of the “50 Biggest Influences on Girl Culture,” the movie is not Jacobson’s first foray into guerrilla cinema. Inspired by her mentor, George Kuchar, “the King of trash filmmaking,” Jacobson scraped together $1,600 to make the half-hour “I was a Teenage Serial Killer,” when she was just 19. Film Threat magazine named the movie, about “a woman who kills dumb men,” one of the “Top 25 Underground Films You Must See.”

An unexpected business partner — her own mom — helped Jacobson raise the $50,000 required for “Mary Jane.” Unfazed by the flick’s mohawk-sporting stars, Ruth Jacobson moved to San Francisco and began sending postcards to strangers, asking for money. “My mom wanted me to have all the opportunities she never had for herself,” explains Sarah, who, in turn, offered her previously conventional Jewish mother a whole new career.

After “Mary Jane” played at Sundance in 1997, Sarah hauled the film to festivals around the country while mom worked on distribution.

Next up for mother and daughter: Sarah’s new movie, “Sleaze,” about “an all-girl band on tour in Missoula, Mont., who hook up with the town geek.” The name of the Jacobson’s production company: Station Wagon Productions.

“Mary Jane’s Not a Virgin Anymore” plays at the Nuart March 12-18.

Cinema Judaica

In years past, the Sundance Film Festival — a two-week marathon of industry schmoozing, skiing and screenings in Park City, Utah — has served as the launching pad for Jewish independent cinema. The gematria-laced, sci-fi-tinged “Pi,” the Simon Wiesenthal Center-produced Oscar winner, “The Long Way Home,” the Academy Award-nominated “Shine,” and the critically lambasted “A Price Above Rubies” all surfaced there in recent years.

This year, Jewish filmmakers triumphed once again, as several top festival trophies went to films containing Jewish subject matter. The Dramatic Feature Directing Award went to Eric Mendelsohn for “Judy Berlin,” a surreal meditation on dysfunctional Jewish families trying to make sense of their lives during a solar eclipse. And co-winning the Audience Award for World Cinema was “Train de Vie” (“Train of Life”), another dramatic comedy, almost film as fable, set during the Holocaust.

Like a French version of a Sholom Aleichem story, “Train of Life” spins the yarn of a shtetl, scheduled to face annihilation at the hands of the Germans, that finds hope when the village idiot proposes a plan to buy a train, disguise the townspeople as Nazis and deport everyone to Eretz Yisrael. Many of the film’s seriocomic incidents — Jewish tailors faking Nazi uniforms, swastikas replacing mezuzahs, etc. — may straddle the line of good taste for some, but, like “Life Is Beautiful,” the film’s life-affirming sentiments strive to win over its audience.

Other features that generated positive buzz included “Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.,” a documentary about a Holocaust revisionist by Erroll Morris that received rave response, as did “Fools Gold,” Jeffrey Janger’s road movie about a pair of Oklahoma outlaws — one Latino, the other Jewish — on the lam.

Also receiving attention was “A Walk on the Moon,” directed and produced by actors Tony Goldwyn (grandson of movie mogul Sam Goldwyn) and Dustin Hoffman, respectively. Set in 1969, the bittersweet drama centers around a bored Jewish mother (Diane Lane) and daughter (Anna Paquin) who find themselves lured to Woodstock while vacationing in the Catskills. At the press conference for the film, “Moon’s” screenwriter talked about the resistance she met while shopping around her nostalgic script. Mentioning that studio execs had found her story “too soft, too small, not global enough and too ethnic,” Hoffman quipped, “Hey, that describes me!”

Jewish images also turned up in unexpected places. In “Home Page,” filmmaker Doug Block uses his nephew’s bar mitzvah and a family seder to contrast traditional Jewish community with the fragmented one found across the World Wide Web. In “Fools Gold,” the twentysomething Jew, struggling with both Jewish identity and anti-Semitism, attempts to keep kosher as he is being pursued and, to his dismay, learns that his “wanted” photo is an old bar mitzvah picture (in a postmodern Hitchcockian cameo, the director used his own bar mitzvah photo for the shot). And in the hip romance, “The Invisibles,” a fresh-out-of-rehab rock star named Jude displays an uncanny Chassidic knowledge, offering rabbinical tales from the Baal Shem Tov and offhand comments about planting trees in Israel.

One of the festival’s sleeper hits, “The Invisibles” shot for an astounding $7,000 in eight days and was directed by Noah Stern, a Conservative Jew from Chicago whose production entity, ZH Films, stands for Zionist Hoodlum (a reference to the infamous Oscar speech Vanessa Redgrave gave in the 1970s).

If the overt Jewish presence in, of all places, Park City seemed jarring to some, the juxtaposition wasn’t wasted on “Invisibles” director Stern, who told The Journal: “Most Jews in Hollywood hide from their identity, but like many at Sundance, I have no interest in hiding. There’s a ghettoization in the industry about being a Jew, but we prefer not to be a part of that ghetto. And if we’re labeled freaks for doing that, dayenu.”

The Wiesenthal Center’s $1 Million Problem

Though it may seem otherwise, we are not picking on the Simon Wiesenthal Center. In general, we admire the center, its founder and dean, Rabbi Marvin Hier, its staff and their fine work. The center is innovative, responsive and highly effective — qualities lacking in many major Jewish organizations, here and elsewhere.

The Wiesenthal Center is the focus of our cover story, however, because of its decision to scrap a documentary on Israel that took a year to make and cost as much as $1 million. The filmmakers, one of whom has won an Academy Award, claim that their project was spiked because it presented a more truthful, though less flattering, version of Israel. The center’s officers — who have also garnered two Oscars — maintain that the commissioned film was just too dull and uninvolving.

It just might be. But we’ll never know, and neither will you. The Wiesenthal Center has said it won’t release the film. That’s their right, though one obvious question for center donors is why the organization dropped so much money into a project it will not release. The center approved the script and gave the filmmakers a green light every step of the way, then pulled the plug. Sure, it happens every day in Hollywood. But at a donor-funded nonprofit institution?

Beyond that issue lies the deeper question of whether American Jewish organizations spoon-feed their constituents only the most easily digestible, over-simplified and uplifting story of Israel, past and present. Many Israelis and American Jews will tell you the answer is yes, as our stories on pages 22 and 23 intimate.

If so, it’s time to change the approach. A new generation of potential donors, weaned on Watergate, tuned to “Geraldo,”and “Dateline NBC,” is unlikely to buy Israel-as-fairy tale. They are prepared to understand the country at its most miraculous and its most despicable, and still care about it.

The Wiesenthal Center is working on another film. Rabbi Hier says that it will be more engaging than the first, while still not sugar-coating Israel.

We look forward to it. By trying to quietly toss aside the first project, the organization has opened itself to charges that will only be answered when Documentary II finally screens. — Rob Eshman, Managing Editor

All in the Family


All in the Family

Annie Reiner is more than just Rob’s sister

By Naomi Pfefferman, Senior Writer

Author Annie Reiner is tall, elegant, poised — and politelyexasperated when you ask about her famous father and brother.

You can hardly blame her: It’s the umpteenth time she’s beenasked.

Father, of course, is the celebrated comedian and filmmaker CarlReiner. Brother is Rob Reiner, director of “The Princess Bride,””Misery,” “A Few Good Men” and “When Harry Met Sally…”

But Annie is not in the family business. Rather, she is apsychotherapist, painter, poet and author whose play, “Mirageá Trois,” is now at the Santa Monica Playhouse. It’s about aplaywright’s conflict with his unconscious, which is not surprisingfrom an author who also practices psychoanalytic therapy. Thecomedy-drama is more surreal and dreamlike than NewYork-Jewish-neurotic.

Reiner, 48, says “Mirage á Trois” is her first producedplay. Her first two books (a poetry volume, a children’s story) werepublished when she was 41. What took her so long? “Things simplyhappen to me when I am ready,” she says.

Annie andfather Carl, “a powerful force.” Below, the Reiner clan in the1950s.

Reiner’s childhood was hardly typical. She spent her earliestyears on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, and later moved fromWestchester County to Beverly Hills when Dad created “The Dick VanDyke Show.” After school, Annie and shy, sensitive Rob often visitedthe set, where she played with little Ritchie between takes. At home,she helped her older brother prepare for his bar mitzvah at TempleBeth Zion.

Dinner guests included comic luminaries from the writer’s room on”Your Show of Shows”: Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon, Norman Lear andDad’s best friend, Mel Brooks. Dad and Brooks practiced their2,000-year-old man shtick at parties. Annie’s best friend was SidCaesar’s daughter. Rob’s very funny best friend was Albert Brooks.

All the while, Annie was aware of her brother’s teenage angst. Ininterviews, Rob Reiner has often said that he was awed by hisfather’s celebrity and by the comedy icons who filled the house. Hedesperately longed to be part of the group, to be deemed funny, butwas convinced Carl felt he lacked talent. “My father is a powerfulforce,” Annie says, “so Rob felt he had to compete with that. It wasa lot of talking — what comedians do is try to grab the floor — soit got pretty loud.”

If home life could be loud and funny, Annie was a quiet observer.She enjoyed frequenting museums with her mother, Estelle, a painter,and volunteering at a school for disturbed children. She was the onepeople turned to for advice: “My father used to say I had perfectpitch when it came to emotions,” Annie says. Dad may have indirectlyaffected her career choice because “everyone on ‘Your Show of Shows’was in analysis.”

If she rebelled at all, it was that she was drawn to the innerworkings of the mind rather than the exhibitionist world of comedy.When Lear cast Rob as “Meathead” in “All in the Family,” Annie wasworking toward her licensed clinical social worker degree, which sheearned from USC in 1975.

During those years and beyond, Rob often spoke to his sister abouthis feelings of love for and rivalry with his father. The angstdiminished with his own success, and, some interviewers havesuggested, because he has become a better filmmaker than his father.

Annie, however, speaks with equal admiration of “Your Show ofShows” and “When Harry Met Sally…,” her favorite of Rob’s films.”When Sally orders everything on the side,” she says, “that is me.”

In her own therapy practice, Reiner utilizes much dream work, andall her artwork, she says, “is a dream.” She suddenly began paintingwhen she was 30, when she spontaneously picked up a brush at herparents’ house. Since then, she has had a number of one-woman shows,and her paintings now hang all over her sunny, Spanish-style Westsidehome. One of them, an abstract figure confronting an open door, was”another boyfriend receiving his walking papers,” she quips.

Reiner also began writing in earnest around 1980, eventuallycreating a poetry volume, “Mind Your Head,” and a book of shortstories, “This Nervous Breakdown Is Driving Me Crazy.”

“Breakdown” is dedicated to her parents, for all their love,support and “for driving me crazy.” Dad and Mom have read earlydrafts of everything she has written, she says, and her parentsattended the opening night of her play with Mel Brooks, Anne Bancroftand Steve Allen. Rob was there, and so was their much-youngerbrother, Lucas, 37, an artist. Brooks and Neil Simon providedlaudatory press quotes about “Mirage á Trois.”

But, no, neither Carl nor Rob have been able to help Annie sellher screenplay, an unusual children’s tale. That’s because the pieceis “different from the mainstream and from the kind of work they do.”Nevertheless, the creativity of each relative has helped feed Annieas an artist. “We all have a respect and a capacity for the truth,”she says.

For tickets and information about “Mirage á Trois,” call(310) 394-9779, ext. 1.