Documentary by Laguna filmmaker to screen at Illuminate Festival

Eva Haller: A Work in Progress, a feature-length documentary directed by Laguna resident Jeanne Meyers, will screen at the Illuminate Film Festival in Santa Barbara. The festival takes place April 5-7, with Meyers’ film screening on April 5.

The film chronicles the life of Eva Haller, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor, who escaped arrest in her native Hungary as a child by telling a Nazi officer she was, “Much too young and beautiful to die.” She lost her older brother in the war and dedicated her life to making a positive difference in the world through mentoring and supporting non-profit organizations. During the pandemic lockdown, Haller started a weekly online salon series she continues to host today. Her salons bring together artists, scientists and media makers from around the globe.

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Courtesy of MY HERO Project

MY HERO International Film Festival, 2015 where Eva Haller presented the inaugural Women Transforming Media Award to Alyse Nelson of Vital Voices (L-R): Kathy Eldon, Eva Haller, Alyse Nelson, Jeanne Meyers and Xenia Shin

“She truly is my hero,” said Meyers. “Eva Haller’s ability to adapt, survive and thrive through life’s challenges is truly inspiring. The film explores relationships that have shaped her magnificent life.”

Meyers, who co-founded the Laguna-based nonprofit The MY HERO Project, began filming Haller in 2014 for a segment of MY HERO’s Women Transforming Media Series. The online series was launched with a grant from the American Association of University Women, championed by the Laguna Beach branch. Women Transforming Media mentored young filmmakers and celebrated women in the media, but Meyers soon realized that more of Haller’s story needed to be told.

“We would talk and swim at the Coral Casino early in the morning and she would share her wisdom and reflections on life,” Meyers said. “She is a devoted mother, grandmother, wife, friend and mentor to leaders of non-profit organizations around the world. Her story does not end – she continues to be a work in progress.”

The film has won awards at the Cannes World Film Festival, the Stockholm City Film Festival and the Impact DOCS Awards. It has also been chosen as an official selection by the Toronto International Women Film Festival and the Documentaries Without Borders International Film Festival.

The Illuminate Festival launched in Sedona in 2014 as a hub for visionary filmmakers. The festival’s mission is to harness the power of cinema to inspire personal change and social transformation. The festival recently made the move to Santa Barbara. Deepak Chopra, the bestselling author and prominent figure in the world of alternative medicine, will deliver this year’s keynote address.

Immediately following the April 5 screening of Eva Haller: A Work in Progress, Haller will be presented with the Local Luminary Award.

“Those of us fortunate enough to know her, or those who screen the film and want to meet her, have a great opportunity to tune in weekly to her Virtual Salon Series to learn from one another,” said Meyers. “I am grateful to the Illuminate Festival for shining a light on Eva Haller and this film.”

Submissions are being accepted for the 2024 Women Transforming Media Award, which will be presented at the 20th Annual MY HERO International Film Festival in November.

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