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BIG SONIA is a feature documentary about 91-year old diva, "national treasure", business owner and Holocaust Survivor - Sonia Warshawski. The film interweaves themes of resilience, aging with purpose, inter-generational trauma, the death of modern American retail, and survival against all odds to ultimately ask: "Will you let your past define your present?" BIG SONIA is relatable and universal - it's a "non-Holocaust, Holocaust movie" - and the film's lessons are important and relevant NOW, more than ever.
Festival audiences are telling us that BIG SONIA is an "antidote" to the growing divide in an atmosphere of anger despair in our country... we're seeing and experiencing the hope and inspiration our film provides. Within our lifetime, all of the Survivors will be gone, and then how will their messages be passed on?! Our campaign is called Small Matters Big because every contribution (small or big) MATTERS - every donation helps BIG SONIA get to the BIG SCREEN, where we can make the BIGGEST IMPACT possible! We need YOUR HELP - Please join us to amplify the "Sonia Effect" in a time we need it most!
Please watch our FILM TEASER here:
Since our festival premiere (Nov. 2016) BIG SONIA has received a tremendous response from audiences around the globe. We're selling out screenings and winning awards (8 so far) and Sonia's message of "love over hate" and "love over politics" is resonating with every audience we meet: People don't want to leave when the film is over! To make the biggest impact we can, we believe BIG SONIA should be seen in as many movie theaters and communities as possible. And in order to be eligible for an Academy Award (which many people are asking about) we need to show the film in theaters beginning THIS FALL. Sonia has always wanted to be a movie star, and she is anxious to attend as many screenings as possible! Alongside of the theatrical release we will partner with Film Sprout for a nationwide community outreach campaign and screening tour beginning in the Midwest.
Here's how you can make our BIG dreams come true:
A few more details and definitions in case you're wondering what each of these actually means...
Theatrical Release (as in "coming to a theater near you...") - Jim Browne at Argot Pictures will be working on our national theatrical release, and we need your support to cover the costs of bringing the film to theaters on both coasts, as well as all over the Midwest! Sonia and co-directors will travel to as many theatrical screenings as possible!
Academy Awards Campaign - There are many requirements and "deliverables" that filmmakers must provide in order to be eligible including: week-long theatrical runs in NY & LA, reviews in specific publications, marketing / promotion, DVD replication, etc - we will be working hard to fill all of these requirements before the end of the year!
Education Materials - Creation of multiple versions of the film for different age groups; downloadable curriculum and discussion guides for educators and community organizations (7th grade and above); additional graphics and video content specifically for educators; animated videos for middle-school students based on the animated sequences in the film.
Community Outreach Campaign - This Fall we will partner with FILM SPROUT to manage a massive outreach and screening campaign across the country, beginning in the Midwest. Depending on funding, we have the potential to have 250+ screenings in small (and big) towns - at churches, synagogues, senior living facilities, museums, libraries, and schools! Film Sprout will help us mange screening licenses and regional partnerships to ensure we make a #BigImpact with every screening. If budgets allow, Sonia and filmmakers will attend whenever possible.
"Engaging and thoughtful... Key to the strength of Big Sonia is its refusal to give in to easy bromides. Its use of animation to illustrate Sonia’s memories spins off her own artful drawings in a way that amps the sense of unspeakable horror rather than sugarcoating it. The filmmakers, like Sonia herself, acknowledge the ongoing struggle that’s essential to surviving such trauma." (The Hollywood Reporter)
"Such a beautiful documentary... an unexpected and vital exploration... in a time we need it most. I love Sonia!" (Rosie O'Donnell)
"This is not like any Holocaust survivor film you've seen. And if you're like me, you're not likely to forget Big Sonia any time soon." (Janice Convoy-Hellmann, Atlanta Jewish Times)
"(The movie) speaks to us here and now because the world hasn’t changed, but we still can." (Melinda Henneberger, Kansas City Star)
"Sonia is made up of many opposites and even seeming contradictions. Big Sonia is really about choosing how we respond to what is thrown at us." (Michèle Taylor, Vice Chair, DNC National Finance Committee & Member, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council)
"Captivating. Moving. Fresh. Painful. Hopeful. Magic." (Kim Frank, SVPN Magazine)
"...you must know by now how deeply your film's impact is felt. Through laughter at foil scarcity, there is tremendous respect for Sonia. She is resolute to mentor another generation; to reveal that inhumanity can exist in monstrous ways. She becomes our guide to keeping precious bonds within family & community. And always, rejoice that we have life." (Jean McGlothlin, Festival Director, Sebastopol Documentary Festival).
PRODUCER | CO-DIRECTOR | Sonia's Granddaughter
LEAH WARSHAWSKI is a director, producer, and adventure-seeker who lives mostly out of her suitcase. Her career in film began in Hawaii working in the marine department for shows like LOST and HAWAII, where she learned from some of the most experienced and humble Watermen on the planet. Her first feature film, FINDING HILLYWOOD (2013) profiles the beginning of the film industry in Rwanda and screened at more than 70 film festivals around the world. In tandem with the film’s release, she co-founded rwandafilm.org a “LinkedIn” for Rwandan filmmakers to help find work in the industry, supported by Bpeace and The Academy of Motion Pictures. Leah’s personal journey (over six years of production for BIG SONIA) is the inspiration for her recent TedX Talk called “How Do We Cope with the Trauma We Didn’t Experience?” Leah is also the co-executive producer for the feature documentary PERSONHOOD (2017-18). Leah values authenticity, loyalty, grit, and gratitude. When she’s not on a plane, you can find her sitting in patch of sunlight, dreaming of whales. For a full credit list, please visit IMDB.
CO-DIRECTOR | DP | FILM EDITOR
TODD SOLIDAY is a Director, Editor, and Cameraman, who mostly lives for carrying Leah’s suitcase. With over 25 years experience on projects around the globe, Todd is the gear head and true craftsman at Inflatable Film: directing, filming, editing, animating, and post-supervising feature films, short films, corporate films (Starbucks, Red-Bull Media House, Microsoft, Amazon, T-Mobile, etc), and music documentaries for major networks and corporations. Both a technical expert in the field and a passionate leader, Todd is happiest outside, with camera in hand, OR engaged with a team of talented artists. For Todd, BIG SONIA (2016) was the ultimate: co-directing, editing and shooting this entire film, then collaborating with some of the most gifted musicians and visual artists in the world was the culmination of his filmmaking dream. Other recent documentary feature projects include OUT OF LUCK (2016), THE BREACH (2015), FINDING HILLYWOOD (2013), PLATINUM: THE MT. BAKER LEGENDARY BANKED SLALOM (2007) and VOYAGE: ALONE ACROSS THE ATLANTIC (2006 series and pilot). Todd is a multi-Emmy award winner and in 2015 was honored with a month-long fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation in Bellagio, Italy. Avid mountain biker, snowboarder, diver, surfer, and world-traveler, Todd’s hunger for the backcountry and passion for adventure drives his documentary storytelling.
We have a BIG little team! Other team members include:
- Rachel Ignotofsky | Graphic Artist
- Brad Anthony Laina | Composer
- Dawn Norton | Animator
- Eric Frith | Story Producer
- Doug Loviska | Assistant Editor
- Dave Stewart | Graphics
- Chelsea Mohr | Production Assistant
- Gloria Baker Feinstein | Still Photographer
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS + ADVISORS
- In Association with | True Productions
- In Association with | BVEW
- Tom Wright | Executive Producer
- Ni’coel Stark | Co-Executive Producer
- Claude & Bertina Thau | Co-Executive Producers
- Sara Wright | Associate Producer
- Brian Newman (Sub-Genre)| Distribution Advisor
- SuEllen Fried | Education Advisor
- Lucy Bernholtz | Fundraising Advisor
- Jennifer Tavernaro | Education Advisor
- Todd Milton| Education Advisor
FINISHING SERVICES PROVIDED BY
Here's a better view of Rachel Ignotofsky's original poster designs - You can be the proud and lucky owner at the $500 pledge level! They're perfect for kids AND adults!
Is my donation tax-deductible?
Donations through our crowd-funding campaign are not tax-deductible. However, if you would prefer to donate through our 501c3 fiscal sponsor Northwest Film Forum and receive a tax-deduction, please email leah(at)inflatablefilm(dot)com directly.
When can I see BIG SONIA on Netflix?
That's a great question... We're also asking the same thing! So far Netflix has not made us an offer or contacted us so please tell them how much you love the film. We're hoping that our theatrical release will help generate an offer from Netflix. Stay tuned for distribution updates as they happen on our social media and email newsletter.
Where is BIG SONIA showing now and how do we request a screening in our town?
All of our upcoming screenings and events are listed on our website. If you'd like to host a private screening or get on our mailing list for as soon as the film is available to license, please email leah(at)inflatablefilm(dot)com.
Who composed the MUSIC and when will the soundtrack be available?
Brad Anthony Laina is a Seattle-based rock star (no really, he's is) who composed the original score for the film. "OH" (the song featured in BIG SONIA) is performed by Brad's band, Vaudeville Etiquette. They put on a GREAT show if you ever have a chance to see them live! More info HERE. We're working on a soundtrack that will be available online this Fall! Please follow our social media for updates - you'll be the first to know!
The ANIMATIONS rock my world - tell me more.
We're so glad - we love them too! We wanted to tell Sonia's story in a unique and visual way that would not make people turn away, but would draw viewers in with nuance and wonder. We used Sonia's doodles for inspiration to make the animations feel childlike and authentic to Sonia's story. Since one our main goals is to reach educators and students, we wanted to create scenes that are emotional and accessible to teens and adults alike.
Rachel Ingnotofsky is a Kansas City-based artist and author. We met Rachel (and her boyfriend Thomas) at Metcalf South Mall screening our previous film in 2013. It turns out that Rachel and Thomas had their first date at the Mall and we filmed them for a segment that never made it into the movie. Rachel's book Women In Science recently landed on the NY Times Bestseller List and she's currently working on a few other books for the same publisher. Keep an eye out for more of Rachel's work at your local bookstore - she's BIG TIME!
Is this your first film? What's your real job?
You might be surprised that we get this question a lot... Our first feature documentary, FINDING HILLYWOOD, was filmed in Rwanda (East Africa) and released in 2013. We screened at more than 65 film festivals around the world and won 6 awards. See our trailer and website for the film HERE. And YES, we work in the film and video industry full-time on projects around the globe. Check out some of our other work at Inflatable Film - we're always on the look-out for interesting projects... #WorkHard #PlayHard #GiveBack.
Where can I find Sonia's gefilte fish recipe?
Sonia cooks everything "to taste" just like her mother used to do in Poland! There's no official recipe but we were lucky (?) enough to film part of the process during production. Here's what we know: 2 different markets on opposite sides of town, 17+ pounds of fish, at least 2 different varieties of bottom-dwellers, bones and guts galore, and a whole lot of sugar.
If you ever have a chance to taste Sonia's famous gefilte fish, make sure you eat it with lots of jelly... "Because it's healthy for you!"
Still have questions?
Send us an EMAIL and we'll respond just as fast as we can...