About The Filmmakers

Aviva Kempner (Director), Aviva Kempner has been making award-winning documentaries for more than 44 years with an emphasis on rediscovering and celebrating lesser-known Jewish heroes. These include The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg (1998, named Best Documentary by the NY Film Critics Circle, National Society of Film Critics, National Board of Review, and Peabody Award), about the baseball player who faced anti-Semitism during the 1930s.  

She produced Partisans of Vilna (1986), one of the first films to depict Jewish resistance during World War II. Kempner later directed Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg (2009), about TV pioneer Gertrude Berg who created the first sitcom. Kempner’s documentary Rosenwald (2015) celebrated how philanthropist Julius Rosenwald partnered with Booker T. Washington to establish over 5000 schools for African-Americans in the Jim Crow South. In 2019, she directed The Spy Behind Home Plate about baseball player and OSS spy Moe Berg.

 Kempner co-directed and co-produced Imagining the Indians, a documentary about the movement to remove Native American names, logos, and mascots from the world of sports. She is also the co-writer and producer of Casuse, about the young Native American activist who kidnapped the Mayor of Gallup, New Mexico to draw attention to the plight of the Navajo people and to expose the hypocrisy of the establishment.

  She just finished A Pocketful of Miracles: A Tale of Two Siblings, a family memoir focusing on the pre-war and wartime experiences of her mother and  uncle. Hanka Ciesla passed as a Polish Catholic within Germany, and Dudek Ciesla survived Auschwitz. The film also addresses the story of her father, Harold Kempner, who wrote the post-Holocaust stories in Berlin after the war as a military government journalist.  Kempner was born in Berlin.

Kempner is finishing a documentary about the award winning Hollywood screenwriter, journalist and activist Ben Hecht, who exposed the horrors of the Holocaust to the American public and helped bring survivors to a permanent Jewish home in Palestine. 

Kempner is also making Pissed Off, a documentary short exploring the struggles faced by female lawmakers in Congress who advocated for “potty parity” in the United States Capitol. 

She is the creator of The Ciesla Foundation, an educational organization, https://cieslafoundation.org/ and she launched the SEW: Sports Equality for Women website, https://sewomen.org/ to amplify the stories and voices of women in sports.

Kempner received an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Michigan in 1969, and a masters in Urban planning in 1971.   She also wrote for the The Michigan Daily and sold movie tickets at the Michigan Theatre. Based in Washington, DC, Kempner created the Washington Jewish Film Festival. She is a statehood advocate for Washington, D.C., and a board member of DC Vote. Her awards include: 1996 Guggenheim Fellowship; 2000 DC Mayor’s Art Award; 2001 Women of Vision award from D.C.’s Women in Film and Video chapter; 2001 Media Arts award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture; 2009 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival’s Freedom of Expression Award; Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of the District of Columbia (2018) and the Creativity Award from Moment  Magazine (2020). She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Isabel Echavarria (Editor) is a documentary filmmaker and editor currently based in Washington, D.C. She is passionate about bringing untold histories and stories to the screen through engaging and unique storytelling techniques. She holds a BA in film and history from Wesleyan University where she graduated in May 2023 with departmental honors. Her senior thesis film, Pilot Women: Wesleyan’s Transition to Coeducation received the Grant Wilcox Prize for best documentary film thesis. The film explores the experiences of the first women to attend Wesleyan during the second wave of coeducation in the late 1960s and early 70s. With an interest in documenting the experiences of women in male dominated spaces, Isabel joins the Pissed Off team with enthusiasm.

Alison Richards (Archival Producer) has worked in documentary film and television production and research for over 20 years. She was the Associate Producer of both Aviva Kempner’s  The Spy Behind Home Plate and the Rosenwald, special DVD package which includes over four hours of extras and an educational packet. She is currently working as Archival Producer on Kempner’s in production feature length film Ben Hecht and short film, Pissed Off.

Most recently, Richards was an Archival Producer for both Free Exercise: The Story of America’s Religious Liberty and  John Marshall, The Man Who Made The Supreme Court.  She was Associate Producer of NOVA’s Spies that Fly, a history of unmanned aerial vehicles. Her work in research and production also includes: When My Time Comes: A Conversation about Dying with Diane Rehm; Smithsonian’s Stories from the Vaults with Tom Cavanagh, a behind-the scenes look at the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex; the WGBH Emmy Award-winning story, Why the Towers Fell, about the collapse of the World Trade Center; NOVA’s Bioterror: Coping with the New Reality; the WGBH Peabody award-winning series Building Big with David Macaulay: Bridges, Domes, Skyscrapers, Dams, Tunnel; and the independent film, Tale of the Tongs. Richards received a Master’s in Producing for Film and Video from American University and a certificate in Copyright from Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. She was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Yemen, grew up in Southern California and has a BA degree in English from the University of California at Irvine.  (UCI) 

Connie Coopersmith (Associate Producer) is a writer, editor, event, and television producer, strategist and consultant.  She is a fixture on the presidential campaign trail as a senior advance associate and has directed extensive field and GOTV operations. She travels for the White House, the US Department of State, Treasury and Commerce Departments, and the Clinton Foundation helming events and leading large advance teams on five continents. 

With renowned artist Mary Ellen Scherl, she is the co-executive producer of Defending Democracy, Portraits of Women in the Military, a docu-series and international art show. She is currently co-developing a podcast, Advance Madness. Connie Coopersmith also serves as a special advisor to Soul Cachasa.

As an award-winning magazine writer, editor and television producer, she has covered or directed/produced The Triple Crown, UFC/MMA, championship tennis, NFL Films, Monday Night Football, the Miami Dolphins and other major live sporting events. Connie Coopersmith has developed original television programming and magazines.

Coopersmith has also conceived, produced, and directed events and cause-related efforts for a diverse group of clients including UNESCO, the U.S. State Department, the Clinton Global Initiative, and the Justice Department.  Other projects include Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, When We All Vote, Arts for Biden-Harris,  Freedom House, March for Our Lives, the Capital Children’s Museum, Vital Voices, Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, the National Fishing Hall of Fame, the National Swimming Hall of Fame, the Royal Kingdoms of Thailand and Jordan, One Fair Wage, the Safe Surfing Foundation with Shaquille O’Neal, the Dan Marino Foundation, and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts.