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PR Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope on DVD Apr 23
The untold inspirational story of Colonel Ilan Ramon, a fighter pilot and son of Holocaust survivors who became the first and only astronaut from Israel, embarking on a mission with the most diverse shuttle crew ever to explore space. Ramon realized the significance of 'being the first' and his journey of self-discovery turned into a mission to tell the world a powerful story about the resilience of the human spirit. Although the seven astronauts of the Columbia perished on February 1, 2003, a remarkable story of hope, friendship across cultures, and an enduring faith emerged.
Director Daniel Cohen on the making of
Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope
I first learned the story of Ramon and the scroll shortly after the shuttle Columbia's disintegration on re-entry. I was struck by the incredible power and symbolism of Ramon's profound gesture, carrying an artifact from the Holocaust into space. I thought that this was a hero's story, and at the same time, a universal story. It is a story of survival, triumph, faith, and, as Col. Ramon said himself, a story of "what a person can do when they go from the depths of hell, to the heights of space." The crew of the shuttle was the most diverse ever to fly together into space. They represented a shining example of what can be done when people work together with a mission. This is in stark contrast to the place the story began, in a Nazi concentration camp.
My first instinct was to reach out to the person who owned the scroll, Dr. Joachim "Yoya" Joseph, the Israeli scientist working with Col. Ramon for the Columbia mission. Right away Yoya asked, "What can I do to help you tell this story?" It would be a question I would hear again and again from everyone who became involved with the project. I did not realize that my phone conversation with Yoya would lead me down a seven-year path to make the documentary.
Yoya told me how his family was ripped apart by the Holocaust, and how he came to possess the tiny Torah scroll during his time in the concentration camp. It was an amazing twist of fate that he should become a scientist working on a space mission and become friends with Israel's first astronaut.
Soon, I found myself at the Israeli embassy in Washington where General Rani Falk told me that, during the mission, Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres had promised the Columbia crew a V.I.P. visit to Israel, and that Ramon's widow, Rona, was about to host the Columbia families on the trip the crew was never able to make. General Falk introduced me to Rona, and she agreed to allow us to go along. She thought that of all the stories about her husband, this was the one he really would want told.
The Israeli trip launched us on our way, and every path took us in a new direction of an unraveling story. I learned why Ramon was chosen for this mission, and what it meant in Israel.
As I talked with the astronauts' families, I learned what a long time they had spent together and how their relationships bloomed. I discovered that crewmember Dave Brown was an aspiring filmmaker and that he was actually making his own documentary about his mission aboard the Columbia. His brother Doug agreed to share the tapes and provided us with unique and intimate moments of the crew to tell their story.
Throughout the development and production of "SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA: MISSION OF HOPE," the challenge was how to portray the story as uplifting. Critics kept telling me it was a tragic story - the Columbia accident, the Holocaust. Astronaut Steve MacLean solved the dilemma for me when he carried with him into space a sister scroll in tribute to his friend Ilan Ramon. The scroll rises again. Hope lifts from the depths to the heights.
Yoya did not survive to see the documentary completed. But through Col. Ramon, and now our film, the promise made by a small boy to a dying Rabbi trapped in the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp will always be kept. The story of Bergen-Belsen will always be told. And just as important, the film shows the possibilities that unfold when we work together as the Columbia crew did. This "mission of hope" can carry us into the future.
About the Filmmakers
Director Daniel Cohen's career spans thirty years as a Washington, D.C. broadcast journalist and documentary filmmaker whose work has garnered him top production awards ranging from multiple Emmys for outstanding broadcast journalism to six Telly Awards for first responder and safety advocate work. While at NBC's Washington, D.C. station, Cohen also received honors from the Associated Press and other organizations for medical and science reporting, as well as the Ohio State University Journalism award for investigative work.
Producer Christopher G. Cowen won an Emmy in 2011 for producing The History Channel's Gettysburg. Cowen's other producing credits include the acclaimed HBO series ON: Freddie Roach, Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D for IMAX, the HBO documentary David McCullough: Painting with Words, and The Real Robin Hood, a two-hour special for The History Channel. For Herzog & Company, Cowen serves as producer on the upcoming Killing Lincoln. The two-hour television film based on The New York Times bestseller by Bill O'Reilly is being produced in partnership with Ridley and Tony Scott's Scott Free Productions and will air on the National Geographic channel in February 2013.
Executive producer Mark Herzog, principal of HCO, also received an Emmy for his producing work on Gettysburg and is Executive Producer on the upcoming Killing Lincoln. Herzog has had numerous forays into producing and directing documentaries, often for HBO and Playtone. He was the Executive Producer on the Academy Award winning short documentary On a Note of Triumph and directed David McCullough: Painting with Words for HBO. Also for Playtone, he executive produced the 3D IMAX film Magnificent Desolation and co-produced the Emmy-nominated World War II documentary, We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company. Herzog's company, HCO, produces original programming for network, cable and internet as well as producing robust theatrical marketing campaigns and creative content for all major studios, film and television entertainment. HCO has garnered an Academy Award, four Primetime Emmy Awards, collected ten Emmy nominations and most recently received a THR Key Arts Award for their work in producing "Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn," a ground breaking digital series based on the best-selling Xbox franchise.
About PBS Distribution
PBS Distribution is the leading media distributor for the public television community, both domestically and internationally, extending the reach of these programs beyond broadcast while generating revenue for the public television system and our production partners.
PBS Distribution offers a diverse range of programming to our customers, including Ken Burns's films, documentaries from award-winning series such as NOVA, FRONTLINE, AMERICAN MASTERS, NATURE, and AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, dramas from MASTERPIECE, as well as films from independent producers and popular children's programming. As a multi-channel distributor, PBS Distribution pursues wholesale/retail sales, consumer and educational sales through PBS-branded catalogs and online shops, and international broadcast and video sales. PBS Distribution is also a leader in offering programming through digital platforms including internet and mobile devices.
Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope
Street Date: April 23, 2013
Run Time: 60 Minutes
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