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Saturday, 1 April 2017

Reflecting on the Power of Story & the Conviction of Two Gifted Tellers; Noah Berlow & Szilva Vecserdy - 11am, Saturday, 25th March 2017

Singer-Songwriter & Recording Artist Szilva Vecserdy with Award-Winning Film-Maker Noah Berlow

It is not every day that two acclaimed artists based in Los Angeles California fly in from overseas to speak at our library and discuss the power of story in film and music...matter of fact, this was a first for us.

Equally special to us was the humility and pulsating social conscience of our presenters.
In the space of two and a half hours, our audience of 29 guests were treated to beautiful vocals and a sharp, daring and innovative lens,  leaving us all with  an indelible mark of hope and promise for the future...and stronger sense of moral responsibility.

Noah opened as first speaker, performing a 360 degree turn and then thanking us for his 45 seconds, we could not believe his presentation was over!

This, of course, was not the case. It was a clever introduction about the nature of storytelling and the expectations and hopes of its listeners.

When it comes to storytelling, Noah has a well-established reputation as the go-to film-maker. He has had some of the most famous names in the music entertainment industry come to him to produce their music videos; Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Van Halen, Christina Aguilera and John Mayer...perhaps you are familiar with one or two names?

Noah though, was not here to name drop. He propelled us into his own story of how he became a film-maker and his dedication to creating documentaries to raise awareness about significant social issues world-wide through his own production company Immortal Cinema International.

"Stories narrate our histories and stories envision our future. Stories confirm our truth that deepens our understanding about who we are as human beings." - Noah Berlow

Noah was a top academic student in high school and in his final year. An opportunity arose for Noah to join the March of the Living program as a film-maker to document the experience. The program runs in a number of countries around the world, bringing Holocaust survivors, descendants and educators to join a commemorative march through the remains and grounds of some of Europe's most notorious ghettos and killing centres during the Holocaust.

Noah Berlow holds up the original cap and back-pack he took with him on "March of the Living"; his first major film-making assignment.

 Noah was conscious of his disconnect from the experience, as he stared through his lens and captured the tears and overwhelm of his fellow marchers. It was not until Noah's camera lens mysteriously exploded that Noah could truly be in the experience and feel the emotions first-hand. Noah finally found it within himself, a descendant of  Holocaust survivors, to cry and grieve.
The experience would forge his philosophical foundations and manifesto for his future film-making endeavours.

Flash-forward to today, Noah's accomplishments to his credit include;
an awarded recipient of Ithaca College's Outstanding Young Ilumni Award, an internship with Steven Spielberg's SHOAH Visual History Foundation as editor of both Holocaust testimonies and the 2007 BAFTA award-winning documentary "Recollections; Eye-witnesses Remember the Holocaust". His first feature documentary "Herstory History" unsettled his home country of the United States in its startling revelations of the nation's obsession with celebrity culture and worship, comparing it to the once same mania that swept Nazi Germany in the presence of Adolf Hitler. The documentary demonstrated the ways in which the media can be exploited to manipulate an entire people and narrow their perspective into non-questioning obedience.

His ground-breaking documentary "Our World: Dropping the Knife - Kurdistan" a disturbing insight into the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) was viewed by  the Kurdish Government of 2011 and led to the outlawing of the practice. In 2013 the documentary was broadcast to 30 million viewers on BBC Arab television.

By the end of Noah's presentation, all present knew how fortunate we were to be in the midst of such an incredible and incredibly compassionate young individual...and the morning was not over yet.


Szilva performs with unshakable passion in her song "Live in Hope", written and composed by Szilva especially for her step-father's memoir written in memory of his late mother "Josephine", in celebration of her daring to love and sacrifice during Hitler's Nazi Germany.

"The creation of music has a very sacred place in my heart. It's storytelling in the format of memory and lyrical content. It is married to rich emotion and human connection." - Szilva

Of Hungarian heritage, but born and raised in Melbourne, Szilva knew her calling from a very young age. When she was ready, she packed her things and re-settled in Los Angeles California to be at the international epicenter of the music industry.

In a landscape where the uninitiated or all too trusting aspiring musician can succumb to a path of rampant exploitation and then swift disposal, Szilva avoided such a dark descent by arming herself with knowledge of the industry, diversifying her musical repertoire and never losing sight of what music was all about for her. Szilva has sustained a successful and enduring career as a result, and never once compromised her musical or personal integrity.

Sitting before Szilva was a joy to behold. Speaking and performing with conviction, while articulating the scientific properties of sound with such intelligence, it was no surprise to us to learn that her sound engineering skills (all self-taught), flair for lyricism, and powerful vocals have afforded her survival and sustainability in the world's most cut-throat industry and city.

"Music is adaptable and multi-functional. It is one of life's most essential elements...I didn't become a singer to be rich and lyrical content is always of highest priority to me. I value the responsibility to transport a clear and motivating message in each and every one of my songs."

Adaptability and multi-functionality indeed reflects in Szilva's musical palate and ventures. Herself a recording artist and the co-founder and partner of 222 Music Group, Szilva's music and vocals have been licensed by film production companies and found their way into commercials, television shows and feature films. An achievement in commercial terms, Szilva regards one of her most personal and professional musical triumphs to date as providing her vocals and original musical arrangement for Noah Berlow's acclaimed documentary "Our World: Dropping the Knife - Kurdistan"  

 To then have the musical soundtrack composed by Szilva for the documentary played before us, not only did we marvel at the level of cultural accuracy Szilva was able to conjure for a country completely foreign to her, but its jarring musical elements, traditional sound and mournful cries of Szilva haunted and unsettled us all. There was no mistaking the personal research and emotional investment Szilva had staked to reach the truth of the country and the harsh topic at its core.

"It is always rewarding to hear my music on a TV show. However, the most rewarding of all is making an impact on an individual level."

 Indeed, Noah and Szilva more than succeeded in making an impact on an individual and collective level among our Mentone Public Library guests.

We "live in hope" for their return to our library one day, and look forward to their further contributions to the international, artistic and social landscape.

Noah and Szilva, thank-you.

1 comment:

  1. Great review on Noah's and Szilva's presentations Julia! Well done on my book review blog too! Cheers Paul