Private Project

Elena - The Elena Boder Story

Elena follows the extraordinary life and
groundbreaking career of Dr. Elena Boder

"Overcoming hardship, tragedy, and discrimination, Elena Boder embarked on a groundbreaking career as a doctor, researcher, and teacher. Now her story is being told in the new documentary, Elena."

"Elena follows Dr. Boder from her birth in early 20th century Russia, to her work researching dyslexia and being one of the two doctors to identify the neurological disorder Atatxia-Telangiectasia. In between, the film hears from those who knew Dr. Boder best, featuring interviews with her friends, family, and colleagues."

"Leaving her home in Russia at the height of the Bolshevik Revolution, immigrating with her father to Mexico and then the United States, and becoming friends with Frida Kahlo along the way, Dr. Boder fought adversity on her way to success. Becoming a respected doctor in a male-dominated field, Elena was able to make revolutionary contributions to research in neurological science."

"Among Dr. Boder’s many achievements are developing popular diagnostic test for dyslexia, as well as treatments for it and other learning disabilities. Her most influential work was in identifying Atatxia-Telangiectasia, a neurological disorder, along with her colleague Dr. Robert Sedgwick. Their work greatly expanded our understanding of the disease and help guide future research."

"Elena also looks at the tragedies faced by Dr. Boder over the course of her life: her illnesses, her difficult relationships with her husband and stepmother, and the loss of her mother and half-sisters during the Holocaust. It also follows the story of her father, Dr. David Boder, who was one of the first people to go into the Displaced Persons camps after World War II, collecting over 120 hours of interviews with survivors."

"Elena is the extraordinary story of an extraordinary woman."

  • Ellen Ratner
    None in Film
  • Ellen Ratner
  • Christian Capobianco
  • Project Type:
  • Genres:
    Medical, Historical, Migration, Jewish, Slice of Life
  • Runtime:
    47 minutes 11 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    April 15, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    37,200 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Ellen Ratner

Ellen Ratner (born in Cleveland, Ohio) is a retired American news analyst from the Fox News Channel and appeared on The Strategy Room and The Long and Short of It. She was also White House Correspondent and bureau chief for Talk Media News, which she managed; covering the White House and was heard on more than 400 radio stations across the U.S.

Her brothers are New York City-based developer Bruce Ratner and the late human rights attorney Michael Ratner.

She is the author of Ready, Set, Talk! A Guide to Getting Your Message Heard by Millions on Talk Radio, Talk Television, and Talk Internet (2006), 101 Ways to Get Your Progressive Ideas on Talk Radio (1997), and The Other Side of the Family: A Book for Recovery from Abuse, Incest and Neglect (1990). In 2011 she co-authored, Self Empowerment: Nine Things the 19th Century Can Teach Us About Living in the 21st.

She is also a co-founder of the self-help publishing company Changing Lives Press. Among other books Changing Lives Press has published include a satire of her brother's Atlantic Yards saga. It also published her 2011 book, Self Empowerment: Nine Things the 19th Century Can Teach Us About Living in the 21st.

Ellen Ratner worked in the field of Mental Health from 1971 to 1976. She worked as the director Psychiatric Day Treatment program at South Shore Mental center in Quincy, Massachusetts. Later she served as the Vice President of Research, Development, and service at the ARC and also as a Director of its Research Foundation.

Ratner attended Goddard College receiving a Bachelor of Arts, and for her Masters Degree in Education, Harvard University.

She is married to Cleveland resident Choline Espinoza.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

‘Elena!,’ is a film about a my distant cousin, a Jewish immigrant who through her intelligence, tenacity, and perseverance, rises up to defeat adversity in a male-dominated field to become a groundbreaking medical researcher, and prominent member of the pediatric neurology community in the United States.

I decided to start my cousins’ journey in the documentary not with her time in the United States, but as a newborn in post-war Russia alongside her desperate father, who was fleeing the country due to draconian Bolshevik laws on Jews and education. Her story then unfolds through their migration from Russia in 1919, to Japan on a cargo liner, through Mexico, and finally to the United States where she flourishes as a practitioner of the medical arts.

Using old black and white footage to fill in the narration, I interspersed my film with first person interviews of the people that actually knew Elena; her friends, her colleagues, and her patients. In Mexico, I pause briefly to reflect on Elena’s acquaintances, including the celebrated Mexican artist, Freda Kahlo, who was a dear friend and fellow student with Elena in high school. Finally, we end with Elena in the United States; this is where I spent most of my time.

Part of the untold story I wanted to convey of Elena was her time as a doctor at both Ceders-Sinai and UCLA Medical Centers. These years were rich with discoveries. I wanted the public to know she spent countless years researching and developing advanced diagnosis and testing procedures for a whole class of suffering children that were simply left behind with the debilitating and –at the time –little understood diagnosis of dyslexia.

With her grants, and dedicated research assistants, Elena Boder developed in-depth testing interventions, and modalities for the affliction. In the end, she even discovered a disease wholly separate from dyslexia, Ataxia telangiectasia. To end the film, I though I would wrap it with interviews of the people who’s lives she touched most directly. This included colleagues, parents, and the children themselves.

I developed the script for ‘Elena!’ with the belief that something this personal: a life of medical discovery that has never been discussed; unknown, and never celebrated, would be a compelling documentary film. The concrete details of her life, the struggles, and all the achievement gives this documentary film an authenticity that I hope will make a powerful, emotional, and thought provoking statement to audiences all over the world.