Life in StillsTamar Tal
At the age of 96, Miriam Weissenstein never imagined that she would be facing a new chapter in her life. But when “The Photo House”—her late husband Rudi’s photo studio and life’s work—was destined for demolition, even this opinionated and uncompromising woman knew she needed help.
Under the cloud of a family tragedy, a special relationship is forged between Miriam and her grandson, Ben, as they join forces to save the shop and its nearly one million negatives that document Israel’s defining moments.
Despite the generation gap and many conflicts, Ben and Miriam embark on a heart-wrenching quest that requires love, courage, and compassion. Life in Stills, winner of numerous awards, is an exquisite visual journey and a unique chronicle of one Israeli family whose resilience parallels the resilience of the country itself.
About Pri-Or Photo House and Rudi Weissenstein
Rudi Weissenstein, the photographer and late husband of Miriam Weissenstein, was born in Iglau (Czech Republic) in 1910. In the years 1929-1931 he studied at the “graphische Lehr – und Versuchsanstalt” in Vienna. After his immigration to Palestine in 1936 he worked as a photographer and a journalist and in 1940 he opened the “Photohouse Pri-Or” studio on 30 Allenby Street in Tel-Aviv with his wife Miriam.
Rudi was a real Yekke by nature. He was courteous and sincere, and his customers included many of the leading personalities of the local Jewish community, and later heads of state. He was the official photographer of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, a reporter of the UN and more than all – the official photographer of the declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel by David Ben Gurion, in May 14th 1948.
Rudi’s work in documenting the development of Tel Aviv, the first Jewish city, is probably unparalleled. Every negative in his enormous archive (more than a quarter of a million negatives) is testament to Israel, the character of its inhabitants, the way they dressed and behaved. His photographs give the observer a sense of that is the way we were, that is how we looked.
Weissenstein’s photographs were displayed in many exhibitions in Israel and abroad and were awarded numerous prizes. More than 150,000 people in 6 weeks visited the last exhibition held at the Reading Power Station in Tel Aviv in 2002.
Recently the shop moved to a new location on 5 Tchernichovsky Street. For Photos Purchase: www.pri-or.com
Ophir Academy Award-for Best Documentary (Israeli Oscar 2012)
DocAviv Int’l Documentary Film Festival Best Film Award and Best Editing Award, Israel, 2011
Dok Leipzig Int’l Film Festival, Talent Dove Award, Germany, 2011
Bar International TV Festival, Grand Prix – Best Film in Festival, Montenegro, 2011
One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, The Student Jury Award, Czech Republic 2012
Doc Edge Film Festival, Best Film in Generation Category, New Zealand, 2012
DocuDays Film Festival for Human Rights, Special mention Award, Kiev
Hot Docs, Audience Award-Top 5 films Audience favorite, Toronto 2012
Krakow Int’l Film Festival, Audience Award, Poland, 2012
Shanghai TV Festival, Magnolia Award for Best Documentary, 2012
Berlin Jewish Film Festival, Audience Award, Germany, 2012
Sao Paulo Jewish Film Festival, Audience Award, Brazil, 2012
9th Jameson CineFest International Film Festival, Best Documentary Film, Miskolc, Hungary, 2012
XII International Documentary Film Festival “Flahertiana,” Special Jury Mention, Russia, 2012
Zagreb Film Festival, Special Jury Mention, Croatia, Oct. 2012
This Human World Int’l Film Festival, Audience Award,Vienna, 2012
Vancouver International Women In Film Festival, Best Documentary, Canada, 2013
Select Festival Screenings
DocPoint Film Festival, Finland, January 2012
Paul Spiegel Filmfest Dusseldorf, Germany, January 2012
One World Film Festival, Bucharest, Romania, March 2012
Films for Africa Film Festival 2012, Cape Town, South Africa, March 2012
DokFest int’l Film Festival, Munich, May 2012
Addis Int’l Film Festival, Ethopia, May 2012
Toronto Jewish Film Festival, Canada, May 1012
Documentary and Short film Festival, Norway, June 2012
Moscow Int’l Film Festival, Russia 2012
DokuFest, Prizern, Kosovo 2012
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, USA 2012
MedITERRANEAN Film Festival, Bosnia, Aug. 2012
Bergen International Film Festival, Norway, Oct. 2012
Zagreb Film Festival, Croatia October 2012
Boston Jewish Film Festival, USA Nov. 2012
UK Jewish Film Festival, London, UK Nov. 2012
Belarus Human rights Film Festival, Minsk, Dec. 2012
THIS HUMAN WORLD Int’l Film Festival, Vienna, Austria, Dec. 2012
New York Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 2013
Washington Jewish Film Festival, Jan. 2013
Palm Beach JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL, Florida Jan. 2013
Zurich Israeli Film Festival, Switzerland, Feb, 2013
Denver Jewish Film Festival, Feb, 2013
Brussels Jewish Film Festival, Mar 2013
Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival, March 2013
Seattle Jewish Film Festival, March 2013
European Film Festival, Italy, April 2013
Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, USA, April 2013
North Virginia Jewish Film Festival, USA, April 2013
When I first walked into the Photo House it was like magic. The past came to life through the smells, and through the incredible photographs that rest in the wooden drawers and tell the story of Tel Aviv and Israel. I was fascinated most of all by Miriam’s outstanding character and decided to document her life’s work. It was only after completing a short film on Miriam and the Photo House, that I got acquainted with her grandson, Ben who had joined the family business. I observed their unique relationship grow stronger, as they faced the threat to lose their shop. It became clear to me that it was my duty to continue documenting their story.
As a photographer, it was important for me to integrate the historical photographs, the 8mm family movies in order to tell a complete story, a story of global and personal conflict.
It was a great privilege for me to have gained Miriam and Ben’s confidence, to have been allowed to be part of their lives and invited to share their most intimate moments.
Director Tamar Tal
Tamar Tal, born in 1980, is a photographer and a documentary filmmaker. Life in Stills is her first feature film. Her short film The Iron Lady and the Photo House was shown in the DocAviv Film Festival 2007 in the student competition. Tamar Tal graduated from Camera Obscura School of Art (Tel Aviv), Photography Department.
Tamar Tal’s Filmography
2011 Life in Stills
2007 The Iron Lady and the Photo House
Life in Stills
Written and Directed by: Tamar Tal
Producer: Barak Heymann
Co-Producer: Tamar Tal
Cinematographers: Daniel Kedem, Tamar Tal
Editor: Tal Shefi
Additional Editing: Eyal Tsarfati
Original Score: Alberto Shwartz
Research: Tamar Tal
Production Manager: Tali Shamir Werzberger
Sound Design: Aviv Aldema
On line editor: Yoav Raz
Interviewees and subjects in the film:
Laticia (Miriam’s caregiver)
Miriam Weissenstein Bio
Miriam Weissenstein was born Aug 29, 1913 in Czechoslovakia. She came with her family to Israel (then Palestine) in 1921, at the age of eight, and lived in Tel Aviv until her death, at age 98, in 2011.
In 1932 her parents sent her to study contemporary dance in Vienna, at Gertrud Kraus’s studio. She stayed there for two years, during which she also studied sports and gymnastics. Later, she became a gymnastics teacher. In 1936, she met Rudi Weissenstein, a young, talented photographer, also from Czechoslovakia, whom she married after a few years.
In the 1940s, the Weissensteins established the Pri-Or PhotoHouse in Tel Aviv, which became a famous studio and institute, thanks to the collection of one million photographs that it contains—images which document the history of a country in making. Miriam was the manager of the Pri-Or PhotoHouse, the big boss; while Rudi was the artist and photographer.
They had three children, and worked together for 55 years. Rudi passed away in 1992, and Miriam kept the business alive for almost 20 years, all by herself. Ben Peter, her grandson, joined her in the business when she was 92, and she taught him everything he needed to know to carry on the family business, until she left this world at the age of 98.
Ben Peter Bio
Ben Peter is the successor and the manager of Pri-Or PhotoHouse. He started working with his grandmother, Miriam Weissenstein, in 2005, and gradually learned from her the secrets of this unique archive. His mission is to preserve the life work of his grandparents. Since he took the family business upon his shoulders, Ben has published books, catalogues, and produced several exhibitions of Rudi Weissenstein’s work around the world.
Tamar Tal was born in 1980, is a photographer and a documentary filmmaker. Life in Stills is her first feature film. Her short film The Iron Lady and the Photo House was shown in the DocAviv Film Festival 2007 in the student competition. Tamar Tal graduated from Camera Obscura School of Art (Tel Aviv), Photography Department.
Barak Heymann joined the Heymann Brothers Films company in 2003 and has since directed and produced several documentary films and series. Heymann Brothers Films is an independent Israeli company dedicated to the release of documentaries on the social aspect of the Israeli/Jewish culture.
Alberto Shwarz is a composer who writes music for films, television, dance, and theatre. Born in Uruguay, he began to study classical guitar at the age of 8. Over the years he extended his studies, in the Uruguay University of Music and at the Film Scoring Department of Rimon Music School. Alberto has been commissioned to write the music for several films, among them, the multiple award winning Life in Stills, and has worked with well-known choreographers, such as Yoram Karmi (Fresco Dance Company) and dancer Ido Tadmor.
Alberto’s music is characterized for the quality and versatility of each project, adding to each work a unique music depth, and high quality soundtrack. http://alberto-shwartz.com/
- December 2, 2014 Los Angeles, CA
- UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies
- July 24, 2014 New Rochelle, NY
- Beth El Synagogue Center Summer Israel Film Series