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Ten years ago, Jared Branfman died of brain cancer at 23 years of age. 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 created 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 the 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 perhaps 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 for the past ten years and where he is now.
Jen Kaplan has a background in marketing, fundraising, event planning and non-profit management. But well before the non-profit world, her first love was the power of stories. For the past sixteen years, she has also 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. During the past five years, she has focused her efforts on producing short films (5-7 minutes) for clients including Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Brandeis University, Mayyim Hayyim Community Mikveh, and LimmudBoston. She is working on several films with her company Spencer Films .
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