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Oscar Award Winning Director

Documents her Legendary Father,

Photo credit:
Brett R. Henry

By Joseph DiSante
Associate Editor

Desperately seeking solace from any illuminating glow of decent human spirit, our society sometimes fails to see that glow even when it surrounds them. Since big money is not involved, corporate Hollywood, where mediocrity and moral decay reign supreme, bestows only superficial attention to a project like Walter Rosenblum � In Search Of Pitt Street. Produced by Nina Rosenblum and Sony Starr, and directed by Nina Rosenblum, a recent review in the Daily Variety, perfunctory at best, completely missed the opportunity to shed light on one of the most uplifting stories of our time.

"D-Day Rescue" Omaha Beach, June 6th 1944 � Walter Rosenblum

To understand Nina Rosenblum, a prolific documentary filmmaker, one needs look no further than to her father, Walter Rosenblum, on of America�s foremost photographers. Now 80 years old, his work is on display in every major museum in the country. Even Spain, Italy and Germany have recently honored this talented and humble man. Within the last fifteen to twenty years, still photography has finally gained acceptance as a middle class art form, and Walter Rosenblum�s work is at the very heart of that recognition. The son of struggling immigrant parents, Rosenblum�s are not just pictures; they are statements! His rare gift in capturing the humanity of the class struggle in all of his subjects represents a priceless vision of the last century that is unique and indelible.

But this true legacy has been manifested in the character and soul of his children. Lisa and Nina, who have both benefited from his profound influence as a man, a father and an artist. With her film camera, Nina Rosenblum lovingly shows us how this gentle man learned to use his still camera. What is especially gratifying is that Mr. Rosenblum is the on-screen host.

His daughter�s camera follows him back to his old neighborhood on the Lower East Side, the source of some his greatest inspiration training he received at the legendary Photo League, where as a 19 year old, he studied his craft with the likes of Paul Straud and Lewis Hine. We see him meet for the first time, the surviving soldier who was the subject of one of his most historic photos. As a combat photographer, Walter Rosenblum�s "D Day Rescue" stands alone as one of the most important photos taken on Omaha Beach. With a single click of his camera, "D Day Rescue" shows us all the horror and all the frustration of that June day in 1944. Later, taking over after the film cameraman in his unit was killed, Rosenblum stayed a film cameraman for the duration. He was the first Army cameraman to file the liberation of Cachau and is a highly decorated Army photographer and cameraman. He was featured in another documentary on combat photographers, produced by Steven Spielberg and Richard Schickel, which aired on ABC Television. His work ranks among the most memorable of all the images recorded during that terrible conflict, and Nina Rosenblum�s labor of love chronicling her father�s life and work, will forever remind us of the contribution this great man has made not only to photography but to society in general.

At a screening sponsored by Women In Film, (Rosenblum is one of the original members of WIF). Bonnie Frank summed up why the organization is so excited about Walter Rosenblum: In Search of Pitt Street. "I love watching this film, . Nina forces you to discover the subject in a clear, choreographed way: she brings the audience in slowly, introducing us to this rare and special man whose life experience are immense, in a sense, it�s a double whammy: a great film about a huge talent done by a great filmmaker � a wonderful documentary.

Nina Rosenblum Photo Credit:
Phillip Jones Griffith

Rosenblum has tackled some of the toughest issues in the country, yet she quickly states that "making Pitt Street was by far the hardest thing I have ever done, going into dad�s life and the family � I learned so much about myself!"

Given her family history, it is not difficult to understand how an artist like Nina Rosenblum evolved, and it is a tribute to the two people who instilled in her the strong sense of moral truth she brings to all her projects. As the daughter of a renowned photographer and an equally famous photographic historian, Naomi Rosenblum, Nina carries on the family tradition of social commentary through the camera. Her award winning film documentaries have established her as one of the most highly respected producers, directors, and writers in the nonfiction film community.

One of Nina Rosenblum�s biggest fans and supporters is none other than her famous dad, who proclaims. "Nina never ceases to amaze me: she is truly a social individual and the perfect role model of what an artist should be: she has courage, tenacity, sensitivity, and a wonderful way of looking at the world."

With a master of fine arts from Queens College in New York, she became a teacher first and found she was also gifted as a painter. So it was a shock to her family when she decided to become a nonfiction film producer/director. She acknowledges that early film documentaries on the Vietnam War, such as The Sorrow And The Pity, were instrumental in helping her make the transition.

According to Walter Rosenblum, "When films came along for her, Nina found her star." Her first stepping stone was as post production coordinator on Warren Beauty

�s Oscar winning film, Reds, followed by an associate producership on the Oscar nominated documentary, El Salvador, Another Vietnam, directed by Glenn Silber.

In the increasingly competitive world of non-fiction documentary films, Nina Rosenblum can stand in there with the best and brightest. As unpretentious as her parents, this attractive diminutive woman has been responsible for some of the most shocking and controversial film documentaries ever done in this country. The powerful influence of both her parents imbued in her the need to be artist who also does socially significant work. Her themes have always been chosen with a clear intention to improve and enlighten society. Willing to bend when necessary, she will fight like a mother lion to keep her goals in tact. "My vision is all I have, so I will find ways to compromise if I have to," she states.

Unfortunately so, her earliest works, going back to 1978, focused on some famous American photographers. Her breakout project came in 1984. Written and co-produced with her husband, Daniel Allentuck, the PBS documentary, American and Lewis Hine, narrated by Jason Robards and Maureen Stapleton, has won them numerous awards, including the prestigious "Distinguished Achievement Award" given by the International Documentary Association and the "Special Jury Prize" handed out at the Sundance Film Festival. Comfortable with her genera, she then set out to tackle the subjects that would establish her as a hard hitting documentarian.

Photo Credit: Walther Rosenblum

Nina Rosenblum has produced, directed and shot for major networks and cable companies, and has provided NBC�s Today Show and ABC�s 20/20 with some of their best features. "Marion: The Toughest Prison in America" was an ABC News 20/20 feature so powerful in content that ABC came very close to pulling the segment. Along with her husband, Allen, she usually pitches her own projects, seeks the funding herself by going to backers and organizations that best fit the subject matter she intends to feature in her film. She is also not adverse to shooting a demo for a client. "A demo will show what the style and feel of the film is going to be like, " she says.

In 1989, Rosenblum stunned the nation with Through The Wire, narrated by Susan Sarandon and produced in association with Amnesty International. This griping expose focused on three women sentenced to a top secret high security behavior modification unit for women in a federal prison in Lexington, Kentucky> Through The Wire premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the Munich Documentary Festival�s Best in Festival Award. It later aired in England and finally on PBS.

In 1992, Rosenblum switched her attention to the plight of African-American soldiers, who, as part of a segregated U.S. Army, helped liberate the Nazi concentration camps. Liberators: Fighting on Two Fronts In World War II, narrated by Denzel Washington and Louis Gossett Jr., earned her and filmmaker, William Miles, numerous awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Feature Documentary.

Never one to rest on her laurels, she won an Emmy Award for the second part of a Turner Broadcasting series in 1993, entitled The Untold West: The Black West, narrated by Danny Glover and followed up in 1994, once again proving her true grit, with HBO�s America Undercover feature documentary, Lock-Up: The Prisoners Of Rikers Island, Lock-Up also won her the Grand Prix du Documentaire in France. Her other works, including A History Of Women Photographers, narrated by Maureen Stapleton, Beat Down: The Case of Raymond Alvarez, and Slaveship: The Testimony Of The Henrietta Marie, all have added to a well deserved and respected reputation.

Nina Rosenblum is very positive about the future of non-fiction films. With all the new technologies and expanding distribution, she sees a very busy and bright time for people who do what she does. But, as with commercial filmmaking, many will be called, but few will be chosen. "To make a good documentary is very tough," she claims, "you have to delve so deeply into worlds you would never normally go into."

As a member of the International Documentary Association, The Directors Guild of America, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, she is delighted with the recent changes made by the Academy regarding the Oscar judging of feature documentaries. There are anywhere from 60 to 90 entries each year, and that number will go up. The new rules allow for 50 chosen and proven documentarians, who are also Academy members on both counts, to pre-screen and select the top twelve films. The entire membership will then decide on the top five nominees from the twelve. This will allow for more careful consideration, which should also mean a much higher standard for feature documentaries.

In 1980, Rosenblum and her husband formed Daedalus Productions, Inc., a not-for-profit film and television production company. Their Board of Advisors include Ed Asher, Maureen Stapleton,and producers, Robert Whitehead and Sonya Starr, among others, and their goal is to create, educate, and inform audiences by using the finest talents in the entertainment industry for their projects. They have two new exciting films almost completed, and one of Nina Rosenblum�s ambitious future goals is to undertake a project that will fully explore the origins of violence in America," People don�t need fancy stuff; they need community: the need to be watched out for," she proclaims. And the world needs to watch out for Nina Rosenblum because without her and her wonderful talents, it would be a sad, uninformed, and unenlightened place!

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