We had the good fortune of connecting with Beth Lane and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Beth, how does your business help the community?
I started my company, de Lamorondiere Rock Productions, to promote social justice through cinema, creating documentary films with a strong narrative structure. My aim is to tell stories that celebrate the best parts of humanity prevailing in the face of adversity, prompting important conversations about social issues and challenging audiences to view the world from a new perspective.
Our first documentary feature film, WOULD YOU HIDE ME?, is set to be completed this summer. It tells the story of seven Jewish siblings who were hidden for two years on a farm in Germany during the Holocaust. The youngest of the siblings is my mom. The story is, of course, deeply personal to me, but it’s also one that I am increasingly certain the world really needs to hear right now.
At its core, WOULD YOU HIDE ME? is a wake-up call to the historical parallels between the 1920s, ‘30s & ‘40s and today. At a time when our nation feels deeply divided and full of confusion, I set out to make a film that serves as a call to action while offering hope in its depiction of human resilience, courage, and eventual triumph despite all odds.
As a member of the Second Generation (“2G”) of Holocaust survivors, I believe that it is the imperative of those of us who know and appreciate the horrors which can result from such movements of nationalism and racism to continuously speak out against these sentiments and against those who aid in fueling an unhealthy dominant cultural narrative. In addition to exposing these terrifying trends, I believe it is equally important to offer a positive alternative. WOULD YOU HIDE ME? offers a timely and important message that serves as a caution light to the dangers we face at this moment in history, while its portrayal of concrete examples from the past of counter-action and resistance offers inspiration and hope.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Although this is my first film behind the camera, I have been an actor all of my life. Throughout my career, I have learned how to step inside the shoes of another human being; to breathe the way they breathe; to walk the way they walk. I imagine what it’s like to think like them; what they daydream about; how they perceive the world. As a first-time filmmaker, I knew I had to draw on that experience in order to set myself apart, and it has turned out to be an essential part of the process of getting to the heart of the stories we are telling.
As we approach the end of post-production on WOULD YOU HIDE ME?, I am so proud of the way that my team and I have woven the stories told to us together to form a cohesive, powerful message. A huge challenge I knew from the start we would face is the fact that the central people interviewed in the film are all in their eighties and nineties, recounting things that happened to them over seventy-five years ago. The stories weren’t always complete and were sometimes fragmented, so we relied heavily on research, archival documentation, and help from historians and experts to ensure that the film is balanced and fact-checked. After five years of making this film, it is so beautiful to see this all come together.
My personal journey as an artist has not been easy or linear. I know that my tenacity and persistence are what have gotten me here. At the same time, I recognize that being an artist in 2022 is a privilege. The very fact that I have been able to structure my life so that I have the time and ability to make a film whose goal is not to seek commercial enterprise is not something that is accessible to everyone. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to me that the art I make contains a pertinent and strong social message.
In terms of my brand and story, my central aim is to create work that encourages audiences to strengthen the muscle of empathy and compassion for others. Throughout my life, I have found this philosophy – which embraces the practice of “tikkun olam” (“repairing the world”), a central tenet in the Jewish faith – to be the most important lesson, because it’s a continuous journey that requires work and consciousness. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable and sometimes it’s really hard, but it is so important.
The process of creating this film has been an exercise in addressing my own internal biases and criticisms. Would I be the kind of person who could hide someone, knowing the risks for myself and my family? WOULD YOU HIDE ME? is not an easy question to answer, and I don’t think it necessarily requires one. My hope is that it will motivate people to think about that question in today’s context; to consider that being on the right side of history usually means you have to stand up when not many others will. The goal isn’t to change people completely from one day to the next; the goal is both process and progress.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
While I love my hometown of Chicago, and still consider myself a die-hard New Yorker (having lived there from 1986-2007), I feel so fortunate to have called Southern California home for the past 14 years. I split my time between Ojai and Santa Monica, and absolutely love to bring visiting friends to all my favorite spots, especially in the LA area.
To answer this question, I’ll imagine my friend Christine is visiting from New York. Christine and I have known each other since our college days at the University of Michigan, and she is also a member of the WOULD YOU HIDE ME? Any time spent with Christine is wonderful, and it’s especially fun when she comes out west to see me!
On Christine’s first day in town, our morning would start with smoothies at Juicy Ladies in Pacific Palisades – their coconut espresso smoothie is heavenly! Then, we’d head to Five Point Yoga in Malibu for a revitalizing yoga class led by my favorite instructor, Ted McDonald. Once we’re feeling refreshed from our workout, we would head to Malibu Country Mart for lunch. There are so many delicious options, but my favorite thing on the menu has got to be the chocolate pizza at Tra Di Noi. In the afternoon, we might go to Malibu Design Center to look at furniture, or, if it’s springtime, go inland to the sculpture garden at UCLA to see the jacarandas in bloom. For dinner, I’d book us a table at Geoffrey’s in Malibu and we’d watch the sunset over the ocean.
For the rest of Christine’s visit, we would be sure to fit in plenty of hikes in Topanga, go to a Shakespearean play at Theatricum Botanicum, and most days we will hit the beach; I’m sure we’d also go bar hopping! If the timing of her visit lines up, I would bring her with me to Cholada in Malibu for Thai food, after which we’d cross PCH along with my other girlfriends for a drum circle on the beach to bring in the full moon.
Now that I’ve written this itinerary out, I’ll have to send it to Christine so she can start planning her next trip out here!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout goes to my incredible mama, Ginger Lane. At 82 years young, she is as active as ever as a choreographer, dancer, and disability rights activist. She raised me to express creativity, pursue artistic inspiration, and appreciate and recognize the power art can have in creating social change, evoking empathy, and fostering connection and understanding between people. I am so grateful to her for the worldview she has helped me shape, and for her support of me as an artist and as her daughter.
I have looked up to my mom my whole life, but what has been so amazing over the past few months is the recognition she has received from organizations in her community. In January, the Claims Conference featured her story as a part of their #DontBeABystander campaign in connection with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and she is also going to be a part of their Yom Hashoah social media campaign at the end of this month. In March, she was honored by the Mayor of Chicago’s office as a local role model for women as a part of their celebration of Women’s History Month. I’ve always known my mom is incredible and talented, but to see her photo and name up on posters and billboards all over the city of Chicago was such a proud moment for our whole family.
Aside from her accomplishments in the arts, I am continuously in awe of the grace and insight with which she speaks about the traumatic events in her life, beginning with her early childhood in Germany. Interviewing her for WOULD YOU HIDE ME? was a truly unique and deeply meaningful process. This also goes for her sisters, whose interviews are also featured in the film: Ruth, Gertrude, Renee, and Judith (sadly the two eldest Weber siblings, Senta and Alfons, passed away before production began).
I don’t think most of us can imagine how painful it must be to relive and recount the traumatic experiences millions of Jews endured during the Holocaust, and it is particularly harrowing to think of what it must have been like to go through it as children. It would be entirely understandable if my mother and her siblings never wanted to speak about it, even all these years later. But they look around at the state of the world – the rampant racism, resurgence in antisemitism, the violent rhetoric coming even from people in positions of power – and recognize the similarities to what they experienced in 1930s Germany. It is terrifying to them. I am so inspired by the strength and bravery it must take to dig into their own past and share their stories – which none of them have ever shared publicly in such detail. But they do it because they know the impact of survivor testimony. They know that the most effective way to learn from history is to have the opportunity to truly see and hear the first-hand accounts of people who experienced atrocities. I am so proud of my mom and her siblings for opening up their hearts and stories to the world, and I am beyond honored to do my part to immortalize their words through this film.
Olivia Aquilina (stills from WYHM?) Chad Batka (photo of Beth Lane)