On March 16, 1965, Alice Herz, an 82-year-old German Jewish immigrant, writer, and lifelong peace activist set herself on fire on a street corner in Detroit to protest “the arms race all over the world.” Alice was the first U.S. activist to self-immolate in objection to the Vietnam War, yet is virtually unknown. Phoenix sheds light on her life and death while questioning why she has been erased from history as both an intellectual leader of the twentieth century and as a courageous woman affecting social change. Helga Herz, Alice’s daughter, continued her family’s legacy by also devoting her life to activism. Through exploring Alice’s and Helga’s lives, Phoenix shows their relevance to contemporary social justice and peacebuilding movements.


Betsy Kalin is an award-winning producer/director/writer at Itchy Bee Productions and Bluewater Media. She is a featured speaker at conferences, universities, film festivals and community events. Her films have been honored with multiple awards at festivals around the world. Her first film, Roof, premiered at New York City’s MoMA for New Directors/New Films and is a part of the Short Shorts compilation. Her feature-length documentary, Hearts Cracked Open premiered to great acclaim at the San Francisco International LGBT Film Festival and has won several awards. She produced and wrote the feature documentary Before Homosexuals with John Scagliotti, the Emmy award-winning executive producer of PBS’s In the Life.  In 2010 she made Chained!, a short documentary that screened in festivals around the world, and in 2013 produced the award-winning narrative film Click.  Her most recent documentary East LA Interchange was highlighted on NBC L.A. and has won ten jury and audience awards to date. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Los Angeles City Historical Society’s J. Thomas Owen Award for illuminating L.A. history. Ms. Kalin received a BA in Women’s Studies from Columbia College at Columbia University and an MFA in Directing from the University of Miami.

Diane and Helga Herz

Diane Herz (Producer) is a vice president and chief diversity officer at Mathematica Policy Research, a firm in Washington DC that conducts evidence-based research to improve public well-being. Herz has published many articles in peer-reviewed journals, including the Monthly Labor Review, and has contributed to several books. She has an M.S. in management information systems from Nova Southeastern University and a B.S. in economics from the University of Maryland. She is also a graduate of the Federal Executive Institute and the Tuck Business School’s Leadership for Strategic Impact program. Most recently, she served as president of the Washington Statistical Society (2015), chaired the American Statistical Association’s LGBT Concerns Committee (2016), and served on the board of Empowered Women International (2016-17).  She met her second cousin Helga Herz, Alice Herz’s daughter, in 1984 and they immediately connected over civil rights, women’s involvement in the peace movement, and the importance of social science research. Their friendship continued for 25 years until Helga passed away in 2010.