Peter Stein always thought “it would be amazing” to make a film about his father, a once-famous photographer whose large and stunning body of work had largely been forgotten. Honoring his father was never far from his mind as Peter worked his way up the ladder on his way to becoming a Hollywood cinematographer.
Along the way, Peter began efforts to promote his father’s legacy, landing small exhibits here and there, always filming the events without a clear plan to make a documentary from the footage.
After leaving Hollywood to teach cinematography at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2002, Peter became more serious about the project, and when he retired from teaching seven years ago, he started to look for funding to finish the labor of love.
“Out of Exile: The Photography of Fred Stein,” the Boulder Jewish Film Festival’s Centerpiece, intertwines three stories. The first is the fascinating personal story of Fred Stein, a German Jewish refugee who fled first to Paris and later to New York, making his living with his Leica until his untimely death at 58.
This second pays tribute to his father’s professional life, showcasing an incredible set of images sure to appeal to lovers of photography. After working as a celebrated street photographer, Fred gained wide attention for his portraits of noted intellectuals and artists such as Hannah Arendt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Marc Chagall and Norman Mailer. His best-known portrait, taken in 1946, is of Albert Einstein.
The third and most moving story is that of a son dedicating years of his life to honoring his father by restoring his reputation and bringing his indelible images to public attention.
The work was simply too good to be forgotten, Peter explains. The journey, even longer and more arduous than he ever imagined, also allowed him to connect with a father lost too young.
Peter will appear in person with the screening of “Out of Exile” on Wednesday, November 9 at 6:30 pm in the Dairy Arts Center’s Gordon Gamm Theater. He will also present a free talk about his work as a cinematographer on Thursday, November 10 at noon in the Dairy’s Boedecker Theater. “A Life Behind the Camera” will shed light on the art of cinematographer and feature clips from his films, which include “Pet Sematary” (1989), “Necessary Roughness” (1991), and “Reuben Reuben” (1983).
Peter’s film may be finished, but the job is not done. He is still fighting to get his father’s work seen, trying to interest more museums and galleries, hoping to arrange major shows in France and the US. It is more than a project. It is his life’s mission.