Local attorney and filmmaker Doug Passon will be pretty happy during the world premiere of his documentary “Road to Eden.”
“You’ll see me with a big, silly grin on my face the whole time,” he says.
The Sept. 21 event at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center in Scottsdale represents the culmination of years of filming, editing and fundraising in order to finish the documentary that follows Jewish rock band Dan Nichols and E18hteen as they perform in small Jewish communities in the southeastern U.S. during the holiday of Sukkot in 2011.
The title of the film reflects one of its overarching themes: “that we’re put on this earth to make it a better place,” Passon says.
“We’re supposed to turn this world that we live in into a paradise, where everyone’s recognized as being equal and having infinite value and being unique. Those are the themes in the movie, and the stories that we encountered on the road illuminate those themes.”
The colorful animation that is interspersed throughout the film comes from an unlikely source: Israeli artists Michal Abulafia and Moran Somer, graduates of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.
Their work came to Passon’s attention when the pair submitted a short titled “Miracle Lady” to the Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival’s 2011 student film competition (Passon is on the board of the festival). The short ultimately won the competition.
“It never left me how beautiful and powerful their work was,” he says, “so when I decided that I wanted to go that route for this film, they were the first people I thought of. They’ve just made some amazing, brilliant, beautiful, delicious artwork for the film.”
Like any independent filmmaker, fund-raising was a major project for Passon after filming wrapped. A crowdfunding initiative at Indiegogo raised more than $30,000; other funds came in from private foundations and from donations given on the film’s website, roadtoedentour.com.
“It really was a community effort to make this project a reality,” Passon says.
The premiere event in Scottsdale is also a community effort: the evening is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix, while the film is sponsored by Passon’s synagogue, Congregation Or Chadash. The post-show concert featuring Dan Nichols and E18hteen is sponsored by Congregation Beth Israel. Passon also mentions Valley Beit Midrash as an organization that has been a strong supporter of the film.
“There’ll be food and drinks and it’ll be Sukkot, so we’ll be celebrating in grand Sukkot fashion,” he says.
After the premiere, Passon will start taking the film around the country (upcoming events include screenings in Missouri, Mississippi and Alabama), but for the premiere, Passon just intends to bask in the glow of a dream fulfilled.
“It was such a huge undertaking, and I could never have accomplished this by myself, so the way people have stepped up – the community, my family – it’s humbling.
“It just fills me with gratitude when I think of how many people out there have helped me make the dream of this movie a reality.”
What: World premiere of “Road to Eden” and post-film concert with Dan Nichols and E18hteen
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 21; doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, 12701 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Cost: $18 in advance, $25 at the door
Contact: 480-483-7121, ext. 1230