Student filmmaker scores hometown screening at Tri-Valley festival

For his sophomore project, New York University film student Noah Lagin could have produced a cute piece of fluff comedy worthy of YouTube.

Instead, the Pleasanton native decided to make the most of his $2,500 budget: he made a

12-minute movie about the Holocaust.

“Warsaw” is a compressed thriller about a Jewish man in the Warsaw Ghetto confronting a Nazi soldier. Lagin will have his film screened at the Tri-Valley/Tri-City Jewish Film Series on March 2. It will be paired with “Wondrous Oblivion,” a British feature from 2003.

Lagin won’t be able to make the screening. A senior at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, he is currently working on several film projects as a camera assistant. But he’s happy to have his 2006 short film make its Bay Area premiere.

This is definitely one of those hometown-boy-makes-good stories. Lagin grew up in the region. His family belonged to Temple Beth Torah in Fremont and, later, Pleasanton’s Congregation Beth Emek and is a graduate of Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton.

“Growing up Jewish, you don’t learn [about the Holocaust] in high school,” he says. “You learn it in Hebrew school.”

To fashion his script, Lagin drew on the wartime diary of Chayim Kaplan, a former Warsaw Ghetto resident who died in Treblinka. “It was incredible,” Lagin says. “I got the rights to the [diary] through Abraham Katsh, who started Judaic Studies at NYU.”

“Warsaw” was filmed live in one take at NYU’s TV studio/ sound stage. Lagin cast professional actors and had the largesse of NYU at his disposal for production value. And he needed it to pull off his gritty little story.

Lagin had three days on set to rehearse and prepare. Even with help, “Warsaw” was largely a do-it-yourself project for him, right down to the costume design, which Lagin did. Post-production — especially the sound editing — took months.

The finished film was well received in NYU circles. Subsequent Lagin films have done well, too, like his music video for the Walls, which he filmed in Dublin and was a finalist in several student film contests.

Though he enjoys directing, Lagin is focusing on camera work these days. At 21, he has already reaped some impressive credits. He met Alfonso Cuaron at Cannes, which led to some work for the acclaimed Mexican director’s production company. He also landed a job with the camera crew for an upcoming Bruce Willis film that made it into the lineup at Sundance.

Though his work on “Warsaw” is now ancient history to Lagin, he knows it was an important step on his artistic journey.

“I’m definitely proud of it,” Lagin says. “I feel I’ve grown up so much since then. But it’s great that it’s playing in my backyard. It’s an honor.”

The Tri-Valley/Tri-City Jewish Film Series will screen “Warsaw” with “Wondrous Oblivion” at 7:30 p.m. March 2 at the Vine Cinema, 1722 First St., Livermore. Tickets: $9. Information: (510) 839-2900 ext. 256 or

Show times for the 13th Annual Contra Costa International Jewish Film Festival

“Noodle” (Israel, 2007), 7 p.m. March 1, at CineArts, 2314 Monument Blvd., Pleasant Hill.

“Beaufort” (Israel, 2007), 9:15 p.m. March 1, CineArts.

“Little Heroes” (Israel, 2006), 9:30 a.m. March 2, at Contra Costa JCC, 2071 Tice Valley Blvd., Walnut Creek.

“Yiddish Theater: A Love Story” (USA, 2007), 11:30 a.m. March 2, Contra Costa JCC.

“The Champagne Spy” (Israel, 2007), 2:30 p.m. March 2, CineArts.

“Beaufort” (Israel, 2007), 5 p.m. March 2, CineArts.

“The Bubble” (Israel, 2006), 7:30 p.m. March 2, CineArts.

“Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women” (USA, 2006), 10 a.m. March 3, Contra Costa JCC.

“Bad Faith” (France/Belgium, 2006), 4:30 p.m. March 3, CineArts. Adult content.

“Aviva My Love” (Israel, 2006), 7:30 p.m. March 3, CineArts.

“The Rape of Europa” (USA, 2006), 10 a.m. March 4, Contra Costa JCC.

“Sweet Mud” (Israel/Germany/Japan, 2006), 4:30 p.m. March 4, CineArts. Adult content.

“Olga” (Brazil/Germany, 2004), 7:30 p.m. March 4, CineArts. Adult content.

“Longing: The Forgotten Jews of South America” (USA/Brazil/Ecuador/Argentina), 10 a.m. March 5, Contra Costa JCC.

“De Twelling” (“Twin Sisters”)

(The Netherlands/Luxembourg, 2002), 4:30 p.m. March 5, CineArts.

“La Maison De Nina” (France, 2005), 7:30 p.m. March 5, CineArts.

“Love, Israeli Style: Selected Shorts from the Ma’ale Film School” (Israel, 2006) with “My Brother’s Wedding” (USA, 2003), 10 a.m. March 6, Contra Costa JCC.

“Inside Out” (South Africa, 2000) 4:30 p.m. March 6, CineArts.

“My Father, My Lord” (Israel, 2007) 7:30 p.m. March 6, CineArts.

“Souvenirs” (Israel, 2006) with “Melting Siberia”

(Israel, 2005), 10 a.m. March 7, Contra Costa JCC.

Tri-Valley/Tri-City Jewish Film Series show times:

“Wondrous Oblivion” (United Kingdom, 2003) with “Warsaw,” 7:30 p.m. March 2, at the Vine Cinema, 1722 First St., Livermore

“Gloomy Sunday” (Germany, 1999), 7:30 p.m. March 4, Vine Cinema.

“Aviva My Love” (Israel, 2006), 7:30 p.m. March 6, Vine Cinema.

Tickets for both film series are available online at or by phone at (510) 839-2900 ext. 256.

Curtain rises on 2 film festivals

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.