Documentary filmmaker Leah Galant joined Solzy at the Movies for an interview ahead of the world premiere of her new documentary short, Death Metal Grandma, at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival.
Thank you for joining Solzy at the Movies today. How are things treating you?
Leah Galant: Really great! Trying to think positive warm Austin vibes as I brave this 12 inches snow storm in NY!
Your new documentary short, Death Metal Grandma, premieres this weekend at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival. How much of a thrill is it to premiere the film at SXSW?
Leah Galant: When I finished this film I knew that SXSW would be the perfect place to premiere Death Metal Grandma. The film and Inge embody the spirit of the festival and I could not be more thrilled to bring this film to the SX audience!
Is this your first SXSW? If so, is there anything that you’re looking forward to?
Leah Galant: This is not my first rodeo. The first time I attended was with my film team while making the 2016 SXSW film The Provider about a traveling abortion doctor in Texas. We were unaware that SXSW was happening much to our dismay when booking hotel rooms. We stumbled onto the festival that year and had a great time. Coming back to screen the film the following year was that much more exciting! There’s so many things I’m looking forward to for this year. Many of the shorts look incredible and I was lucky enough to see some of them at Sundance this year. I am particularly looking forward to Jeff Orlowski’s (Chasing Coral) new VR experience, Bernie Sanders speaking, and the feature length version of Thunder Road.
When did you learn about Inge Ginsberg and what made you fascinated by her story?
Leah Galant: The final day I was filming Kitty and Ellen – my latest short documentary about two Holocaust survivors who are best friends- I received a text message from a good friend (shoutout Matthew Hadley) who sent me a picture of Inge on a music video set. Of course I immediately asked him if he could get her number and I talked to her for hours the next day. Beyond the spectacle of what she was doing, I wanted to know why so late her in life she decided to do this. What was her story?
Did you know that her father had been on the doomed SS St. Louis in 1939?
Leah Galant: Yes- Inge and her family have an incredible history that I have thought about making into a feature film. I didn’t have enough time in my 13 minute film to even touch the surface of how rich her history is. Not only did she get her father out of a concentration camp by sneaking into an SS building- but she also was instrumental in the Operation Sunrise WW2 negotiations that effectively stopped Hitler’s army and ended the war. She was a spy in an Italian villa during her incredible feat. Feature material right?
It sure sounds like it! You’ve now worked on two documentaries about Holocaust survivors. Can you talk about why you’re drawn to tell their stories?
Leah Galant: At first I thought it was somewhat funny and a coincidence but I think as much as these stories found me- I found these stories. I am a descendant of Holocaust survivors and sadly my grandparents died when I was at an age too young to appreciate their history. I feel like I owe it to myself, my roots and the world to preserve the stories of an aging generational during a time when history seems to be repeating itself. Sadly, elders in our society are cast off and neglected and I wanted to tell narratives that challenged that.
How did you get an interest in documentary filmmaking?
Leah Galant: In high school I had an incredible friend named Ray Buckner who started the first ever Gay Straight Alliance in my high school that was predominately conservative in the sense that very few people were openly queer. Ray asked our tennis team to join the meetings and I instantly knew this space Ray created was essential and life saving. I wanted to get the word out but didn’t really know how. I had made silly music videos and class projects on iMovie but never thought to take my hobby seriously. It was then my amazing high school film teacher Tom Oliva suggested I make a documentary and the rest is history! Also the Hendrick Hudson High School GSA is still going strong 10 years later thanks to Ray.
Thanks again for your time and congrats again on the film.