Baltimore will be one of several communities across the States to host a special one-night-only showing of “Their Eyes Were Dry,” a new documentary chronicling the tragic Ma’alot terrorist attack of the 1970s. The film, filmed and edited by Brandon Assanti, and produced by his parents, Albert and Mimi Assanti, was six years in the making. Brandon, only now 24-year-old, said he was driven to make the film after hearing of the attack from his father as a child.
“When my father was a small child, he lived in Ma’a lot. He moved out before it happened, but he was still living in Israel for many years. I grew up in Los Angeles,” Brandon said. “My dad shared stories of Israeli culture and history with me. But the Ma’a lot massacre was always something that stuck in my mind.”
“Their Eyes Were Dry” will be shown on May 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. at three locations (see below). It is co-sponsored by StandWithUs, the Consulate General of Israel in Los Angeles and Jewish Life TV.
The Baltimore Jewish Examiner caught up with Brandon ahead of the film’s debut.
Tell me more about why you chose to make this film.
When I was 18, the mayor of Ma’a lot, Shlomo Bohbot, who is also my father’s cousin, came to the States to visit and stay with us. The Ma'alot massacre came up during some conversation at dinner and he shared stories with me I had never heard before. He told how at the time of the attack, the teachers were watching the children, but the teachers jumped out the windows with about 15 of the children. That left 90 children held hostage by themselves; there were 83 survivors – including the ones that jumped out of the window – and 22 children were murdered.
The oldest person in room was 17. … I could not even imagine being one year younger than I was at that time, and going through something as traumatic as this was.
That dialogue provoked you to do it?
Not exactly. I spent one year researching in different libraries to find out all the details I could about incident. I realized there was so little written about it. I also realized just how immense the story was. I felt making a film would be a great opportunity to give the survivors a chance to tell their stories after all these years.
Is the movie very graphic?
It is not visually graphic. There are re-enactments, but you never see the kids getting hurt. It is graphic in the sense that of as you listen to survivors tell their stories, it is what your imagination cam come up with. It is like reading an intense novel.
How would you describe the film?
Compelling, heart-wrenching and, unfortunately, timely.
Though the film takes place in the seventies, terrorism against children has not changed. Unfortunately, with the topic of this film, whenever you show this, it will always be perfect timing. This event marks the birth of terrorism against children. It was the first, not the last. … Each of these children’s stories represents another child’s story somewhere in the world.
PREMIERE DETAILS: “Their Eyes Were Dry”
May 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
Owings Mills 17
10100 Mill Run Circle, Owings Mills
Snowden Square 14
9161 Commerce Center Drive, Columbia
Bel Air Cinema 14
409 Constant Friendship Boulevard, Abingdon
For tickets and times, visit www.FathomEvents.com