Monthly Archives: March 2018

Seventeen Tribute Chairs

Seventeen Tribute Chairs

By Aviva Kempner

       In 2000, my nieces and I picketed in front of the Vice President’s mansion after Al Gore was not declared the winner.  When a news reporter asked my niece Delaney, aged 10, why she was protesting, she replied “I am scared of guns in the schools.”

It’s eighteen years later, and the situation has gotten worse. Our kids are being shot and are even more scared of guns being in their schools. As parents and aunts and uncles and Americans we must take a stand on gun control.

Here is one way you can demonstrate your desire for reform. My neighbors Elaine, Julia, three neighbor kids, Grace, Mateo, Xavier, and I created a memorial in honor of the 17 who lost their lives in Parkland in anticipation of the March for Our Lives coming this Saturday, March 24th.

I suggest that all those in the Washington area and around the nation also create a symbolic tribute to the victims.  For our tribute, we placed 17 lawn chairs out on my front lawn. The last chair was placed to its location by Congressman Jamie Raskin with help from my friend and landscaper Donald.

Try doing the same. Or be creative by using wooden stakes, balloons, empty shoes, or anything you can find to symbolize the loss of these 17 lives and the thousands of others that have gone before them.

Just a warning: if it is going to rain or snow cover the signs in plastic because the weather ruined our first signs.

Let us unite to demand how we need gun reform now. We need Congress to hear the cries of the innocent victims, the young folk and the grieving relatives.

In the words of the button made by my school teacher friend:



Filmmaker and writer Aviva Kempner is a DC voting rights advocate.

How This Year’s Oscars Became a Feminist Game Changer

How This Year’s Oscars Became a Feminist Game Changer 

“I believe the 2018 Oscars are going to have a lasting influence,” writes documentarian Aviva Kempner


​Frances McDormand, a week has passed since the Oscars, and I’m still fired up by your speech.

The highlight of attending this year’s ceremony was when you symbolically lowered your much-deserved masculine statue down on the stage, and called on all the nominated women to stand. Your recitation of “inclusion rider” validated a legal concept that needs to be shouted throughout the land.

I was moved to tears and stood up cheering your inspiring gestures from my nosebleed seat at the Dolby Theatre.

The only thing that would have made me happier is if I had been able to give you the gun reform button — “Love Your Children More Than Your Guns” — that I had in tow. My vision was of you wearing this miniature billboard for the world to see. I presented one to Allison Janney while secretly wishing her “West Wing” character was presently working in the White House.

I believe the 2018 Oscars are going to have a lasting influence. The nomination for “Mudbound” cinematographer Rachel Morrison has already challenged me to hire beyond the norm. I employ a mostly female staff members and editor, and was inspired to use a female cinematographer for my L.A. shoot last week. My search was unsuccessful, but I am now committed to hiring a woman DP for future shoots.

Several 2018 nominees have given audiences game changing insights. The most empowering female portraits — Meryl Streep’s female newspaper publisher fighting for the Fourth Estate in “The Post” and McDormand’s grieving mother demanding justice in “Three Billboards” — were most liberating. Thanks Jordan Peele for your “Get Out,” a stirring horror story about race and eye opener to white society. And kudos to Sebastian Lelio for writing and casting Daniela Vega in such a moving trans love story as “A Fantastic Woman.”

Other Hollywood actresses have also led the charge. The expressions of solidarity with the #MeToo and #Timesup movements at the Golden Globes and the SAG Awards were so encouraging.

These thespians’ courageous acts inspired me to come to the Oscar ceremony sporting this accessory about our society’s gun issues, because lawmakers in my Washington, D.C., hometown are not calling for reform. Using words expressed by one of the Parkland student survivors, a D.C. school teacher was my designer. I finally managed to hand McDormand a button two days after the Oscars when she was introducing an amazing new film, “Rider,” directed by the talented Chloe Zhao. At its reception, I observed how the outspoken actress’ words were already reverberating in Hollywood. I overheard a male producer bragging that he was hiring two female directors for future film projects.

I left L.A. singing, “Is this the start of something wonderful and new,” from the Oscar-winning song from last year’s “La La Land,” “City of Stars.” I told my airport Lyft driver, an actor of African heritage named Lamarana Bah, that this new Hollywood era should be helpful finding roles.

I swear I stood taller arriving in my Washington on Women’s International Day. And I did not waste any time employing my expanded height. I rushed to proudly attend a private screening of the most enjoyable “A Wrinkle in Time,” directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by the tenacity of D.C.-based producer Catherine Hand. It is one of the largest budgeted films ever directed by a woman of color.

I returned late at night to find a newsletter that lauded those contributing to the creation of an embassy statute without mentioning any of the women who had also worked on the art project. I sent off emails criticizing the exclusion, and sure enough those in power agreed to correct the errors.

I feel McDormand’s message traveling with me as I am working today on a new feminist tale, “Pissed Off,” about how the female senators fought to secure a bathroom for themselves in the Capitol since there had not been women elected to that legislative branch before 1932. Hollywood inspired this story too — the idea came to me listening to a panel last year at The Wrap’s Power Women Breakfast in D.C.

I expect that McDormand’s call for action and advancements in 2018 will be reflected at next year’s ceremony. How about a woman hosting the Oscars? Bring back Whoopi!! Expect another nomination for Morrison’s work on “Black Panther,” and numerous nods for diverse and female nominees.

Meanwhile, there is a most pressing matter. To those women in Hollywood who have led the way please join us here in D.C. on March 24 to walk the streets calling for changes in U.S. gun laws. We need your talent and notoriety to demand that legislators finally demonstrate compassion and wisdom to protect our youth.

Frances, we need you here to billboard the message. And if you have misplaced the button I gave you, don’t worry — we are making many more.

The Timely Accessory I’m Wearing to This Year’s Oscars By Aviva Kempner

Link to Original Article:

“I only wanted to wear an accessory that reflected the courageous responses of the young adults who survived the Parkland, Fla., shooting,” writes documentarian Aviva Kempner.

What a thrill to win the lottery for a ticket to attend the 90th annual Oscars ceremony. I am even more excited to be going as a member of the Academy, and pinching myself in disbelief.

I had attended years ago as the grateful guest of my dear cousin, director Arthur Hiller. Back then I went through all the mishegoss worrying about what to wear and how to get my hair done in an elegant style. (Not that anyone is going to care about what a middle-aged, out-of-town documentary filmmaker was wearing that evening or any time for that matter.)

This year I have a much different concern even though the first questions all my friends asked was, “What dress and jewelry are you going to wear to the ceremony?” Without missing a beat, I answered that this year no designer dress, even if I could afford one or fit into its narrow dimensions, was going to represent the look I wanted to achieve in 2018.

As a citizen of Washington, D.C. — whose population is unfairly denied any voting representation in Congress — I only wanted to wear an accessory that reflected the courageous responses of the young adults who survived the Parkland, Fla., shooting and the parents who tragically lost their teenage children.
So, I don’t care that I selected a previously worn, long red Indian caftan that I just grabbed from my closet. The only thing I am concerned about is what button I am wearing.

I was lucky enough to discuss this dilemma on Sunday with a teacher I knew sitting next to me at a reception for the unveiling of a statue of Orlando Letelier, the former Chilean ambassador to the U.S., who was violently killed by a bomb planted in the car he was driving on the street of Washington, D.C., in 1976. His co- worker Ronni Karpen Moffit also died in this insidious attack planned by the Chilean military government.

Without missing a beat and in the spirit of a dedicated teacher, she volunteered to help me create my fashion statement. And I mean literally make my accessory.
She came over to my house and inspired by words spoken by one of the Parkland survivors a button design was born. Sitting in my backyard this educator produced a couple dozen buttons for me and friends to wear and pass out at the ceremony.
I have always thought that teachers are so grossly underpaid and taken for granted for all they do in our society. And this educator, who prefers to remain anonymous, is a gracious phantom thread to my Oscar costume.

So thanks to this preschool teacher, armed only with her creativity and crayons, and with no desire to ever arm herself with a gun in the classroom, I possess the grandest of fashion statements for the Oscars.

As a Washingtonian who is most upset that Congress time and time again has not passed stricter gun control measures to allow our children to go to school in a safe environment, this is what I am going to wear on Sunday.

anti guns button.jpg