Filmmakers with a Cause

Published: March 1st 2010

Michale Kleiman and Michael Pertnoy
Pic: Righteous Pictures
Pertnoy addressing student volunteers
Pic: Righteous Pictures
Kleinman in homeless shelter
Pic: Righteous Pictures


Michael Pertnoy and Michale Kleiman share more similarities than just their first name.


The young filmmakers have joined forces to create Righteous Pictures, a production company that doubles as a humanitarian organization. The company creates socially-driven documentary films and new media projects about critical issues.


The first film to come out of their collaboration is The Last Survivor, which features personal accounts of victims in Darfur, Rwanda and the Congo. The movie recently premiered with praise at the Miami Jewish Film Festival.


“We hope that viewers come away from The Last Survivor with a deeper understanding for the crime of genocide and the common warning signs that forecast imminent violence,” said Pertnoy, 26. 


“But even further, we hope that the stories of these remarkable individuals inspire viewers to do something with that new knowledge - to act when they recognize those warning signs appearing in the world, whether they are in one's own country or seemingly worlds away,” continued Kleiman.    


Pertnoy’s interest in social activism sparked during high school, when he journeyed back to the concentration camps in Poland through the March of the Living program.


“Up until that point in time I had learned a lot about the Holocaust in school and in many ways it was overwhelming -- thinking about the statistics, seeing the horrific pictures and movies and feeling extremely helpless,” said the Miami native. “But as I walked through the camps with Holocaust survivors – arm in arm – marching through the death camps and into the gas chambers, the focus was no longer only on six million lives lost, but I realized the power of those who survived; those who passed through the worst that the world has to offer and emerged with something to give to the world – a renewed sense of purpose; to share their experiences and provide a single link to our history.”


It was on that trip that Pertnoy made a promise to Holocaust survivors: “to make ‘Never Again’ more than an empty slogan.”


“By this time, the genocide in Darfur had been raging on for three years and over 300,000 people had already been killed,” continued Pertnoy. “It was after this trip back to the camps that I decided to get involved with the growing anti-genocide movement that was mobilizing across the United States.”


Their filmmaking work has brought them around the world, including Israel, where they went on a three week mission to investigate reports about refugees from Darfur seeking shelter in Israel.


“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it was a life-changing experience,” shared Pertnoy. “We had both been to Tel Aviv before but had never seen the very rundown neighbourhood of Neve Sha'anan - it really felt like a completely different country than the rest of Israel. The small neighbourhood is home to a rather large population of refugees from all over Africa -- from Darfur, South Sudan, Eritrea, and the Ivory Coast -- who had created something of a community there.”


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