Music has been known to soothe broken hearts, to tame wild animals, and to tell stories through sonic imagery. Filmmaker, writer, producer, and Ruby Flower Records executive Ana-Isabel Ordonez is a conceptual artist who utilizes the talents of avant-garde musicians to give her films another dimension that penetrates the listeners emotions beyond the visuals and narrations. She brought the two mediums of film and music together in her two previous projects, A Touch Of Noir and Shades Of Jazz On Noir, which both included performances around the world with a live accompaniment of musicians who played during the showing of the films. Her latest project, Order From Chaos, bridges these two mediums once again but the storyline is vastly different from Ordonez’s previous works. Focused on Holocaust survivor Albert Katzenger, the film shows his journey back to the place where he was separated from his family, a concentration camp that he escaped from and subsequently made a new life for himself on another continent.
Ordonez expresses, "One can encounter events in a lifetime. Some of them are so potent that we still remember it long after it’s faded away. It happens to the personage of my film."
She summarizes, "The documentary follows World War II survivor Albert Katzenger and his journey back through the chaos of war and imprisonment, love and loss, and the search for resolution. As Albert crosses continents to rediscover his life’s love and roots, we experience a story that can unite the experiences of Shoah survivors and all people. When survivors talk about their pain, they experience a journey back to the chaos. Doing so, the personage discovers that passion, love and faith must prevail in order to push out chaos and concentrate on seeing the order of life, the order he could make from that chaos. Chaos is something you encounter, you don’t embrace it. You either tame it and come out soaring or you get consumed by its fire. If you have the courage to fight as Albert did, you will find order from chaos. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and families."
She brings up, "I had in mind a narrator not actors [for the film]. For me every person that I interview or naturally shoot are actors. Everybody is an actor somehow, and yes, I did take natural shots of course. I took many to be honest. I did realize it when I was editing the film and still. All the time I was searching on how to picture instants, moments, impromptus which can help me to express the emotions the narrator inflicts on the drama-documentary. And sure, I use images from film archive, particularly those regarding the Third Reich."
She explains, "The film is a portrait of a real story. A man whose family perished in the Holocaust. [He] fled the Nazis, changed his identity and built a new life in an another continent. When you discover this kind of journey and the intensity of the emotions involved with, you find in your inner-self feelings with power that give you a new reason to live for and to walk through new journeys. The film chronicles one man’s drive to overcome the experience of pain and make peace with his suffering."
She notes that evidence of Katzenger’s imprisonment was hard to track down. "At first, all was concealed. Something you have there, just a few papers that witnesses the past of a man. An extraordinary and amazing past, totally different from the present and past one experiences with him. The solely reflection and idea come up after. As the story is rooted in historical events, I searched for a historical adviser and I thought the best person to help me on that part was publisher and editor Neil Feldman. And so he did, after listening, reading and investigating, I wrote the storyboard alone. The screenplay was conceived by me and Aaron Baustert (of Linster Studios Frisange, Luxembourg). The story holds a lot of emotions. After I wrote it, I decided the best person to narrate it would be trumpeter Herb Robertson."
She discusses about the locations chosen for the film. "My first idea was obviously to get back to the places where the personage experienced chaos. There were many concentration camps during the World War II. Nonetheless, Auschwitz concentration camp complex was the largest and cruelest, full of its kind established by the Nazi regime. I sent my story, film idea and original documents to the Auschwitz Birkeanu Museum in Poland. They studied my dossier and granted permission to shoot in the place. What drew me to the places was the idea of experiencing a journey back. Many places inspires me, for instance Warsaw, its history regarding the Warsaw Ghetto which was the largest of the ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe. The Jewish Institute in Warsaw is located where the ghetto was so it’s the Jewish cemetery. Krakow was turned into the capital of Germany's General Government after the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany at the start of the Second World War. The Jewish population of the city were moved into a walled zone known as the Krakow ghetto, from which they were sent to extermination camps such as Auschwitz. The Judaica Foundation is located in Krakow. I was also interested in knowing Jewish communities which whom I know my personage would have been involved [with] when fleeing the Nazis and/or searching for his soul mate. On this frame, I chose the Netherlands. And of course I have this idea to feature somehow New York because the city is exceptionally multicultural. Throughout its history, New York has been a major point of entry for immigrants and a melting pot. The Park Slope Jewish Synagogue is an egalitarian Conservative synagogue community located in Brooklyn. YIVO Institute in Manhattan is the world's pre-eminent resource centre for East European Jewish Studies, Yiddish language, literature and folklore."
She cites, "I had also in mind the Balkans so I chose Belgrade because its is one of the oldest cities in Europe. There is an exciting Jewish community over there. Luxembourg is where I write, therefore, I had time to search for old images and do new ones . All these places are very inspiring but none of them can be as inspiring as Israel. That country is considered the heartland of the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah! It’s a such wondrous country with historical and Judaist roots in the Biblical Land of Israel. Many World War II survivors live in Israel. For me, the travel was mandatory. I had a blast at the Wailing Wall. It’s an important Jewish religious site located in the old city of Jerusalem. It dates from the end of the Second Temple period and was constructed by Herod the Great. It’s also one of the holiest place of the world and the sole remnant of the Holy Temple."
She reveals that many of the images which she shot for the film inspired music to accompany the scenes. "I have this trumpet melody in mind when I begin the shootings in Auschwitz-Birkenau but the place is too heart-taken, it can be even painful. It’s a sorrow on which there is no sounds. Just a big silence which was replaced by a poignant solo trumpet when I was editing the work. I did the Israel shooting with music in mind. I knew exactly what places I wanted to see and to shoot. The chapter [on the] Holy Land is joyful, exciting and full of hope. When my plane landed in Israel, I felt the impression I want to be there forever. It happens only once on my life in the past This was quite powerful!. Bassist David Chevan contributes with his music for this part of the film. The music he does with Afro-Semitic experience is of high level and conveys many humanist messages. I very often have music in my mind in every place I shoot and with every person I interview but that doesn’t mean I can follow the same idea when mixing it on a DVD. Live music for me is the essential part of my films. The emotions you get live are spontaneous. But of course for the DVD I have in mind, we discussed and agreed to work on that with David Chevan, Nasheet Waits, Eric Revis, Zlatko Kaucic. Herb Robertson is always involved in any Ruby Flower Records production."
She recalls how she chose the musicians for the project. "For the premiere, I wanted first a duo trumpet/drums. I thought straight at Herb Robertson and Jay Rosen. Herb knows my musical mind, he knows what I like and how I sense melodies or sounds in images. I have worked in another project with Jay Rosen and I like the way he masters drums and cymbals. Jay can play anything. Then of course, I thought to a piano and Angelica Sanchez came to my mind, as comes Marty Ehrlich when thinking of reeds and Ratzo Harris with bass. They are all stellar musicians and characters. Edward Ricart has been of great help setting things for Herb and I during the preparation of this Autumn USA Tour. He’s a fine guitar player. The line up will change but not in each location. This time it will happen only in two venues: one in New York - the world premiere and another one in Baltimore. The choice of the musician is not a randomized thing. It’s a whole process of knowledge on their music and the way they play. I will have an European premier in Tilburg, Netherlands soon. That one will be featured in a synagogue and I happen to screen the DVD with mixed music I’m working on now. I can have a lineup of live musicians but I also have the music in a DVD which by the way will be released by end of this year and will be distributed in USA and Canada by North Country Distributors and in Benelux Europe by Instant Jazz."
For the live performances, she provides that the musicians are given a great deal of freedom. "I give them a script and screenplay of images and I ask them to play with their guts. However, there is a bandleader who traces improvised avant-garde patterns. For the Israel [segment], I want always to include someone with a strong background on Jewish culture an music."
Ordonez speaks about the funding that she secured for the project. "Ah the funding that’s the difficult part for an independent filmmaker. The Augusta Savage Gallery at University of Massachusetts granted a part of the project. Association La Belle Usine contributes enormously on this project. This film was something I needed to do. I had interesting organizations encouraging this project: The Jewish Institute in Warsaw, Judaica Foundation in Krakow, YIVO Institute in New York, Youth International Centre in Auschwitz, Haifa Film Festival, Tel Aviv Jazz festival, and Jewish Festival Krakow. Useless to say, I also invested from my own funds to make this happens. I shouldn't consider myself as a sponsor but in a way I am. I don’t count rewards. I can have neither the means I need to accomplish my dreams."
She remarks that many venues showed an interest in presenting Order From Chaos to audiences, "Many actually and I’m frankly surprised and extremely pleased. Augusta Savage Gallery at the University of Massachusetts was the first one, then was Vision Festival, they helped me to set the launching of the project at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural centre in New York. There will also be a screen at the Windup Space in Baltimore. We have projects with the Director, H. Wiley Hitchcock at the Institute for Studies in American Music at Brooklyn College and the Graduate Centre, CUNY for bassist David Chevan’s musical performance with the film. I’m also discussing possible performances in synagogues but these all regarding New York scene etc. For Europe, the support and interest of Youth International Centre Auschwitz, Tilburg Synagogue, The Movies Art House Cinema Amsterdam, The Jewish Institute Warsaw. There is also a big interest coming from Tel Aviv Biennale in Israel. The 26th November Order from Chaos will be launched in a Netherlands premiere at Tilburg Synagogue in Tilburg. Its programmed to be screened at the Youth International Centre Auschwitz Poland for next spring 2010. I have many plans. It’s just very exciting and also rewarding."
Making the film broadened Ordonez’s conscientiousness and she is hoping that the film and live musical accompaniment will do the same for audiences. "The impression of watching and listening to a drama-documentary accompanied by live music. While this film is rooted in history, it is not a historical film. The documentary follows a World War II survivor and his journey back through the chaos of war and imprisonment, love and loss, and the search for resolution. The suffering and brutality of war haunted Albert’s thoughts for years, and he searched deeply within himself for a cure to his malaise, some way to heal the wound that remained open for him. The places he visited and the people he met and with whom he spoke, brought balance and serenity to his soul, pushing out chaos somehow. That’s what I want to show that there is always an order from chaos. The life of a man is coming to an end. We are talking about an extraordinary destiny, a life of courage, adventure, heartbreak, and tragedy, and now it is a life under its final review."
She extracts a statement from the film, "’Oh how the journey back is different,’ Albert laments." and discerns that the feeling is universal.
She relates, "His is a journey shared by all Shoah survivors struggling with the horrors of their experience - and by all of humankind, seeking peace and reason at life’s conclusion. Though the protagonist never knew what had happened to his brother. He did, however, find order from chaos that will be a nice thought to walk away with after seeing the film."
Order From Chaos: Performance Schedule for 2009
CSV Cultural Center @ 8pm
107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington & Delancey)
New York, NY
Wind Up Space @ 8pm
12 North Avenue
Live music by: Herb Robertson-trumpets, Dave Ballou-trumpets, Michael Formanek-bass, and Edward Ricart-guitar
Paradox Jewish Festival
DVD to be released on December 2009 by Ruby Flower Records www.rubyflower-records.com
Produced by: Ruby Flower Records
Music by: Herb Robertson, David Chevan, Eric Revis, Nasheet Waits
Meir Israel, Zlatko Kaucic
Starring: Loter Martin and Yehuda Cheres
Featuring: Rabbi Carie Carter, Rabbi Yackob Schapiro, Rabbi Yitzak Asiel, Eleonora Bergman, Joachim Russek, Leszek Szuster
Janusz Machuck, Benoit Wesly, Pnina Blayer, Andrez Kalinowski, Nitzan Kremer