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In 2005, Steve Branfman’s 23 year old son, Jared, died of brain cancer. A week after Jared’s death, his father, Steve Branfman, a potter and teacher, went into his studio. As he said, “I stood. I sat. I looked around. I cried. I was frozen. I couldn’t bear to be there but I couldn’t leave either. I sat at my wheel empty of creative thought. After a few moments I got up, took some clay, and threw a chawan, (a Japanese style tea bowl). The next day I made seven more. The following day I made one, and then one each day for a year. For a year, they were the only pots I made. One chawan each day, no matter where I was. My wife Ellen, son Adam and I, together in Shul, said Kaddish every day for a year. My daily chawan made at my wheel was my own personal Kaddish.”
This is the very personal story of a man who used an art form that would honor his son and his son’s memory. For 9 years, these 365 bowls sat untouched on bookshelves covered by plastic in his studio. Each day, Steven looked at these bowls but didn’t feel ready to do anything with them. In mid 2015, it was time. Steve decided that he would glaze and fire these chawan.
The finished chawan were shown in their entirety September 9- October 8, 2015 at an exhibition at Thayer Academy in Braintree for the first and only time. We captured the exhibit, Steve’s interaction with gallery attendees and time spent with his students. We interviewed him one day before the entire exhibit was dismantled. It was a very difficult time for Steven. What would be next? How could Jared’s memory continue?
This film will continue Jared’s memory and show a father’s deep and abiding love for his son. We will show Steven working at his craft, demonstrating his technique and talking about what life has been like since 2005 and where he is now.
Jen Kaplan is a documentary filmmaker with a background in marketing, fundraising, event planning and non-profit management. Her first love was always the magic of stories – listening to them, learning from them, and eventually learning how to tell them in a visual way through the medium of film. Since 2000, Jen has been making films. Her first film “Mixed Blessings: The Challenges of Raising Children in a Jewish-Christian Family”was shown in film festivals across the globe and aired on several PBS stations. She worked as a Fundraising Producer at Connecticut Public Television and served as the Associate Director of Filmmakers Collaborative in Boston. Since 2011, she has focused her efforts on producing short films (4-7 minutes) for clients including Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Brandeis University, Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh, and LimmudBoston and other non- profits. She is working on several films with her company Spencer Films. For more information and to see some of the films, please visit www.spencerfilms.com