by Yedida Wolfe
Robin Garbose’s inspiring energy filled Stern College’s Koch auditorium last Monday night as the film producer and founder of Kol Neshama summer camp visited the campus for a screening of her award-winning feature film, “The Heart that Sings”. A panel discussion with Stern students Mimi Farb, Tova Miller and Leah Gottfried, who had main roles in the film, followed the show. Stern’s film club, dramatic society, and career development center sponsored the evening, which served as a reunion for cast members who live throughout the tri-state area.
“Stern College is the perfect environment for this screening,” said Garbose. “It’s training young Jewish women to engage with the world while maintaining their halachic boundaries. I’d like to send my own daughter when it’s time.”
After the panel answered questions about being on set and highlights of their film experience, Garbose stayed late to catch up with former campers and counselors. Garbose said that she wants to encourage the camp’s alumnae to come back as interns. Alums, many from Stern, are helping fundraise and grow the production side of the organization.
Garbose is looking for ambitious, “bold and courageous” frum women to help her launch a production company, SoulVoice. It’s time to take frum films to the next level, she said. Garbose wants to empower frum girls to remember, “We can use artistic vessels to make a kiddush Hashem, to impact the world.”
Topping Garbose’s watch list is Leah Gottfried, who was both a cast and crewmember in the film, serves as president of Stern’s film club and is poised to launch a film career. Gottfried has created her own major to accommodate her desire to study film and acti, a dream she’s had since she was a child and acted in commercials. Kol Neshama summer — which Garbose modeled on the conservatory method she taught at Juilliard and New York University — was the perfect fit.
Garbose said that the main obstacle — and frustration — she faces in creating more films “by women, for women” is funding. “It cost $350,000 to make ‘The Heart that Sings’, a small budget according to professional standards. It’s hard to compete for money against Chai Lifeline or Tomchei Shabbos.”
Creating movies that can satisfy both religious and secular audiences is a tall order, but one that Garbose feels passionately about. Upcoming projects include a film about Koby Mandell, the boy killed by terrorists, based on his mother Sherri Mandell’s memoir h[em]The Blessing of a Broken Heart[/em], and a movie called “The Spark” that documents the experience of a baalas teshuva.
Garbose said that she wants to make films that satisfy the hashkafic requirements of haredi women viewers while sharing universal messages that bond mothers and daughters of all faiths. It’s a mission that’s garnered the attention of political heavyweights like Hadassah Leiberman, Joe Leiberman’s wife, who offered to host a screening in Washington, D.C., for women of all faiths.