Aviva Kempner, the director-writer-producer dynamo behind the critically acclaimed and award-winning documentaries The Spy Behind Home Plate (2019), Rosenwald (2015), Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009), Today I Vote for My Joey (2002), Peabody winner The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1999), and the WWII documentary, Partisans of Vilna (1979), now turns her focus to yet another untold story of Jewish heroism, the life of Ben Hecht.
Hecht, the son of Belarusian Jewish immigrants, was a screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist, and novelist. He wrote 35 books and some of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America. He received screen credits for the stories or screenplays of some seventy films. His best-known works include Viva Villa!, Wuthering Heights, Angels Over Broadway, and Notorious, for which he earned Academy Award Nominations. He won Best Original Story Academy Awards for Underworld and The Scoundrel.
In addition to his prolific writing career, Hecht was also a dedicated activist and a hero for the cause of exposing the horrors of the Holocaust to the American public. Hecht committed himself to publicizing the atrocities befalling the Jews of Europe, and the quest for survivors to find a permanent home in the Middle East. It was said that “Ben Hecht did more to help Jewish refugees from the Holocaust, and to ensure the survival of the nascent state of Israel, than any other American Jew in the twentieth century.”
It’s obvious that Hecht’s incredible story is a natural fit for Kempner’s cinematic eye.
“I believe that my purpose on this earth is to make films that counter negative stereotypes and to give credit to under-known Jewish heroes on the big screen. Now, with my newest film, I have an opportunity to give Ben Hecht the credit he so richly deserves.”
Kempner is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is an avid voting rights and statehood advocate for the District of Columbia.
“My last four films have focused on the American Jewish experience and all the subjects were children of immigrants – a timely subject. As an immigrant myself, and the daughter of immigrant parents, I am honored to tell the tales of the contributions Jewish Americans have made to our country in politics, entertainment, on the baseball field (I learned to love baseball from my immigrant father!), and in national security during World War II. Now, I am honored to tell yet another heroic immigrant story, that of Ben Hecht, a man who deserves to be a household name!”