Private Project

The Forgiveness of Judith Malina

The Forgiveness of Judith Malina is a short documentary that considers the ethics of forgiveness in the context of the Holocaust.

As director of The Living Theatre, Judith Malina (1926–2015) was a giant of the American avant-garde, and as an actor, she had roles in classic films like Dog Day Afternoon, The Addams Family, and Flaming Creatures. Born to Jewish parents who escaped Nazi Germany, Malina formed The Living Theatre in 1946 and became an early, influential figure in the burgeoning postwar American counterculture.

Among the first performances of The Living Theatre was a faithful adaptation of a work by poet Ezra Pound. Just a few years prior, Pound had promoted fascism and hatred of Jews on Italian radio, yet the adaptation ignored his politics. The Forgiveness of Judith Malina asks why a Jewish refugee from Hitler’s Germany would inaugurate an anarchist theater with the work of an artist who, only a few years earlier, supported regimes that sought world domination—including her own death. Even after the war, Pound did not recant. He was classified insane to avoid treason charges, published his Pisan Cantos, gave a fascist salute to reporters, and took a vow of silence in Italy.

In her final screen appearance, Judith Malina recalls an encounter she had with Pound in Italy during his vow of silence. Malina, the daughter of a Conservative rabbi, meditates on forgiveness, a central ethical tenet of Judaism, in reference to the Holocaust.

Original musical score by James Sclavunos (Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Sonic Youth) and Peter Mavrogeorgis (The Vanity Set, Twisty Cats).

If accepted, subtitles will be added in any language.

  • Judith Malina
    Key Cast
    Dog Day Afternoon, Addams Family, Flaming Creatures
  • James Sclavunos
    Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (Sonic Youth, Lydia Lunch).
  • David Kavanaugh
    Beasts of the Southern Wild, Mediterreanea, Mea Culpa Maxima, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Heart of a Dog, Sharknado 2
  • Brian Wengrofsky
    Camera and Lighting
    A Lion's Trail (Emmy Award Winner)
  • Jeffrey Wengrofsky
    Director, Producer, Writer
    The Party in Taylor Mead's Kitchen, Marti Domination in the Life of Dreams, Getting Out of Bed with RIchard Foreman, The Song of Hiawatha, etc
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Short
  • Genres:
    Art History, Theater, fascism, anarchism, women, ethics, avant-garde, Jewish
  • Runtime:
    10 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    March 18, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • New FIlmmakers New York at Anthology Film Archives
    New York City
    United States
    July 7, 2019
    New FIlmmakers New York at Anthology Film Archives
  • San Diego International Jewish Film Festival
    San Diego
    United States
    February 26, 2020
  • Framestore Preview Theater
    United Kingdom
    August 14, 2017
Director Biography

Jeffrey Wengrofsky's family has lived in New York City's historic Lower East Side for over 100 years. He came to documentary after teaching history and politics at New York University, The New School, and Rutgers University, and serving on the staffs of Aperture Photography Magazine, Coilhouse Magazine, and Constellations: An International Journal of Critical and Democratic Theory. His films have been selected by DOC NYC, Boston LGBT Film Festiival, Berkeley Video & Film Festival, Stranger Than Fiction (IFC Center, NYC), Framestore Preview Theater (London, UK), New Filmmakers New York (Anthology Film Archives), etc.

Wengrofsky is Editor-at-Large at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute as well as a contributor to Trebuchet Magazine (UK) and Cold Lips Magazine (UK). He's also curator of The Secrets Film Festivals. Now in their sixth year, the Secrets festivals screen annually at the Gene Frankel Theater in NYC, Film Noir Cinema in Brooklyn, and at the Berkeley Video & Film Festival in Berkeley, CA. This year, he is running two festivals: Secrets of the Dead and Secrets of Inner Space.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Wengrofsky tries to create a field of tension that begs questions and conjures thought.