ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT/MOVIES

By Press Release

KEENE – The Monadnock International Film Festival (MONIFF) has selected this year’s recipients for the prestigious Jonathan Daniels Film Award, the co-directing/co-producing team of Talya Tibbon and Joshua Bennett for their documentary film, Sky and Ground.

Sponsored by the Jonathan Daniels Center for Social Responsibility, the Jonathan Daniels Film Award is the highlight of the annual festival and will be presented to the filmmakers at the Colonial Theatre on Saturday evening, April 21st. After the film is screened, NHPR’s Virginia Prescott will interview the filmmakers and take questions from the audience.

This annual award honors filmmakers whose work combines artistic excellence with an awareness around a timely social issue, reflecting Jonathan Daniels’ courage and spirit. A former Keene resident and seminarian activist, Jonathan Daniels is recognized as a local hero and international martyr who sacrificed his life during the Civil Rights movement, saving the life of fellow marcher Ruby Sales, a sixteen-year old African American. Past recipients have included Beth Murphy for What Tomorrow Brings, Brian Oakes for Jim: The James Foley Story, and Ken Burns for The Central Park Five.

Sky and Ground immerses its audience into one of the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time and offers an unflinching look at the reality facing a family as it flees from violence into an unknown future. Filmmakers Tibbon and Bennett embed themselves to document the harrowing journey of the Sheikh Nabi clan, a Syrian-Kurdish family who have been displaced from their home in Aleppo, Syria due to the endless violence and civil strife. They are led by Guevara, a man who must lead three generations of his family to safety and freedom in a world where they have no one but each other. Their perilous journey from Idomeni, Greece to Berlin, Germany is fueled by hope and the burning desire to once again live a normal life and not as refugees.

“There are hundreds of thousands of stories like this family’s and I met many similar ones along the way,” Tibbon says. “I was particularly touched by the spirit and humanity of these amazing people and the strong ties that kept them together as a family, even during this incredibly trying journey and the difficulties they encountered on the way to safety. They were generous enough to allow us to film them through tough times, in hopes that those lucky to be spared such a fate would open their minds and hearts to those who weren’t as lucky.”

Directors Talya Tibbon and Joshua Bennett are no strangers to tackling difficult subjects, having each put themselves at the forefront of dangerous events while filming their own individual projects around the world. Their collaboration on this particular film couldn’t be more urgent or timely. As Bennett points out, “In a moment of rising anti-refugee and anti-immigrant rhetoric, it’s critical to tell human stories that help build empathy and show the strength and resilience of refugees.”

Their film Sky and Ground recently received the Anti-Defamation League Stand Up! award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and will be screened at other upcoming festivals.

Film passes are available for the four-day festival, as well as individual tickets.  For more information, contact moniff.org or jonathandanielscenter.org.