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"This film imbues in its audience the sense of sorrow and respect   that the masterpiece, Life is Beautiful, brought to the screen."  

- Moving Pictures Magazine

The Creative Team

Hilary Helstein (Director/Producer/Writer) began her career in the world of humanitarian causes with her work with Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. She directed and produced over 200 segments and interviewed many prominent Holocaust survivors, military liberators and rescuers; among them, Simon Wiesenthal, Nobel Prize recipient Walter Kohn, and renowned Rabbi Graudenz, part of the Sugihara rescue committee. In addition, she traveled to remote areas to interview survivors with unique experiences, including several members of the Varian Fry rescue mission, Chief of Staff of the US Army, and a “Mengele twin.” Hilary’s expertise was utilized to train other interviewers and for quality assurance throughout every English speaking region in the world. She reviewed an additional 300 testimonies for quality assurance.


Hilary’s deep passion for film and the arts led her to her most recent creation - the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival. As Executive Director, Hilary has facilitated completing four successful years of this citywide event. Hilary single-handedly produced this film festival to bring to the LA community a week-long event featuring the newest American and international films celebrating the diversity of the Jewish culture. Her role includes: fundraising and sponsorship, programming, developing partnerships with organizations (ie. the ADL, Jewish World Watch and JDate), consulates and synagogues throughout the city, organizing events and venues, creating the festival brochure and program guide, marketing and advertising; and talent coordination.


Prior to that, in 2005, Hilary directed a documentary on the renowned Los Angeles Rabbi Schulweis. The film, Harold M. Schulweis: The First 80 Years was screened at a special event for an audience of over 1200 people including emissaries such as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and significant clergy including Rabbi Harold Kushner and Cardinal Mahoney.


In addition to filmmaking, Hilary has worked in another capacity in the cultural arts. In 2004, she curated an exhibition of paintings, Samuel Bak: Between Worlds on the surrealist for the Finegood Art Gallery. Prior to that, Hilary co-curated the art exhibit, Memory and Meaning: the Holocaust Through the Eyes of the Artist, for the Jewish Federation’s Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust. She worked with over 40 artists and personally brought to it the most recognized artists in this genre including Art Spiegelman and Mindy Wiesel.


Ms. Helstein was segment producer for the documentary series, America! which aired on the Odyssey Network. In addition, she directed a service learning/educational project for the Museum of Tolerance and an oral history project for CalArts. Hilary started her career in LA in film development for actor Tom Hanks.

Maya Angelou (Narrator) was born Marguerite Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Writer, Poet Laureate, dancer, African-American activist, Angelou spent her difficult formative years moving back and forth between her mother's and grandmother's. At age eight, she was raped by her mother's boyfriend, who was subsequently killed by her uncles. The trauma of the event caused her to go mute for nearly six years.


Angelou spent her teens and early twenties as a dancer. At 16 she gave birth to a son, Guy Johnson, after which she toured Europe and Africa in the musical Porgy and Bess. On returning to New York City in the 1960s, she joined the Harlem Writers Guild and became involved in black activism. She then spent several years in Ghana as editor of African Review.


Angelou's five-volume autobiography commenced with I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in 1970. The memoirs chronicle different eras of her life and were met with critical acclaim. Later books include All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes (1986) and My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken and Me (1994). She has published several volumes of verse, including And Still I Rise (1987) and Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou (1995). Her volume of poetry, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'Fore I Die (1971), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. She also teaches at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, where she has a lifetime position as the Reynolds professor of American studies.

Dina Gottliebova Gypsy girl

"Gypsy Girl" by Dina Gottliebova, is one of many gypsy portraits she painted, ordered by Dr. Mengele, whose fascination with genetics kept the artist alive during her wartime internment in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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"Celine was so beautiful... like a Madonna. We became friends. I wanted to help her."