Refusenik: Laura Bialis, Documentarian

Laura Bialis is the producer and director of the new documentary, “Refusenik.”

An avid historian and film buff, Laura founded the Foundation for Documentary Projects as a way to fuse her love of history with her passion for filmmaking. An award-winning documentary filmmaker, her work as producer and director has ranged from documentaries about human rights, poverty, and wartime memories, to commercial projects for clients such as TV Guide Channel and Universal Television.

It was “Tak for Alt” (“Survival of a Human Spirit”) in 1999, which Laura produced and co-directed with Broderick Fox and Sarah Levy, that first brought Laura’s documentary filmmaking to the attention of viewers across the U.S.

The story of Holocaust survivor turned Civil Rights activist Judy Meisel, TAK FOR ALT tells Judy’s story as a young girl coming of age during the Holocaust. The film accompanies Judy, now in her seventies, back to Eastern Europe to re-trace her wartime journey: from the Kovno Ghetto through the Stutthof Concentration Camp, and ultimately on to Denmark, where she was liberated and restored to health by an outpouring of Danish compassion. A remarkable testament to the resilience of Judy’s spirit, TAK FOR ALT also triumphs Judy’s personal journey from Holocaust victim to American Civil Rights activist.

In 2000, TAK FOR ALT won the Anti-Defamation League Dore Schary Award. The film enjoyed brief theatrical distribution, and aired on PBS in many major markets with a prime-time premiere on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2000. The film was honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the outstanding films of 1999 and was included in their prestigious Contemporary Documentary Screening Series. The film is now being used by teachers in over thirty states, and has been implemented into history curricula in many school districts.

Laura’s other work includes “Daybreak Berlin,” a narrative short based on the wartime memoirs of Ilse-Margret Vogel, a German artist and anti-Nazi resister living underground in Berlin during WWII, and Bread, a short documentary about hunger in Los Angeles, which was commissioned by the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.

Laura recently completed View From the Bridge: Stories from Kosovo, the first feature documentary ever made on the war-torn province, and is finishing post-production on Refusenik, a groundbreaking feature-length documentary about the 30-year international human rights campaign to free Soviet Jewry.

Laura graduated from Stanford University with a B.A. in History in 1995, where she focused on wartime and post-war Europe. She also holds an M.F.A. in Production from the USC School of Cinema-Television.