Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Crayons and Paper"--New Film!

We have a new film in production!  It is called Crayons and Paper and it documents the effects of war on children in Sri Lanka and Darfur.  The film runs 30 minutes and is told through the eyes of Dr. Jerry Ehrlich, who has traveled to numerous conflict zones to administer to the children there.  He also had the children draw pictures.  These images are the focus of the film.

Recently, the Courier Post in south new Jersey did an article about Jerry Ehrlich.  That article is below:

Cherry Hill doctor takes 'action'

Courier-Post Staff

Bruce David Janu came all the way from Chicago to Cherry Hill to see Dr. Jerry Ehrlich.

"When I first walked out of his office, I felt better," Janu said. "Something rubbed off on me."

Janu didn't come across the country to visit Ehrlich about a physical ailment. Janu, a filmmaker and teacher, wanted to hear Ehrlich's inspiring story.

Ehrlich, 73, is a pediatrician with a practice in Cherry Hill. He also is a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. He has been to many of the world's hot spots of hatred, including Sri Lanka and Darfur.

While on these missions, Ehrlich took paper and crayons to have children document what they have seen and experienced.

Janu made a 90-minute documentary, "Facing Sudan," that featured many of the drawings Ehrlich brought back with him from Sudan. Janu first saw the drawings in 2005 at Ehrlich's office.

"It was really inspiring," Janu said about his first three-hour meeting with Ehrlich in Cherry Hill. "Not only does he have a lot of compassion, he has a lot of energy."

Ehrlich, who has been practicing since 1966 in Cherry Hill, has been on three missions to Sri Lanka and one mission to Darfur for two months over the summer of 2004.

The United Nations estimates more than 300,000 people have died in Darfur through genocide, the crime of destroying a group of people because of their ethnic, national, racial or religious background.

On his trip to Sudan, Ehrlich took 25 boxes of crayons and 400 pieces of drawing paper. He smuggled out more than 150 drawings done by children ages 8 to 11.

He risked imprisonment if caught leaving Darfur with the drawings. He also took photos he uses for slide shows.

Now, Janu is making a documentary featuring Ehrlich called "Crayons and Paper."

"The new film begins with his first of three missions to Sri Lanka," Janu said. "He went to help kids."

Ehrlich brought back drawings from his initial trip to Sri Lanka.

"It is completely about Dr. Jerry and the children's drawings," Janu said.

Janu said the 30-minute film will be completed in July. He will then submit the film to festivals in the short documentary category.

"The first film was to raise awareness," Janu said about "Facing Sudan," which won two awards in 2007 at film festivals. "The next film was to talk about Dr. Jerry and hopefully inspire other people."

Ehrlich has received requests by the Sudan government not to show these pictures of malnourished and sick children he snapped when he was a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders working with refugees from the Darfur region in western Sudan.

However, he shows the pictures to raise awareness of the continuing genocide in Darfur.

"You don't walk away from Darfur and forget about it," Ehrlich said. "I'm speaking for those who can't speak for themselves, the people of Darfur."

Recently, he took his sad slide show to Haddonfield High School, where German teacher Christopher Gwin organized the Spring Student Summit, titled "Getting Comfy with Genocide: What in the World is Going On?"

Ehrlich received the first of what is intended to be the annual Haddonfield Memorial High School S.T.A.N.D. Humanitarian Award. The award from the high school's Students Take Action Now for Darfur group honors a South Jersey community member of significant distinction who has demonstrated sincere and inspiring commitment to saving Darfurians.

"I sometimes talk to three high schools a week," Ehrlich said.

In July, Ehrlich will take the voices of Darfur to Israel. He will show his slide presentation at the Holocaust Center in Jerusalem on July 8.

Before then, however, Ehrlich will take his video and notebooks to do a documentary on a thousand Darfur refugees now living in Israel.

"It will be a very interesting trip," Ehrlich said. "A thousand Darfur refugees escaped the Sudan through Egypt and marched into Israel. They were originally detained prisoners, but an Israel human rights group got them out and now they are integrated with the Israel society. They are called B'nei Darfur, the Sons of Darfur."

Ehrlich will attempt to document their experiences. He might just learn more, like Janu did.

Janu, who teaches history, sociology and literature at John Hersey High School in Chicago's northwest suburbs, didn't intend to make a full-length feature film about the atrocities in Sudan that led him to meeting Ehrlich. Janu wanted to make a short, educational film in which Brian Burns, a janitor at the school where Janu teaches, discussed his work in Sudan.

Quickly, though, Janu realized the stories about genocide told by Burns were much bigger than he thought.

Burns' aid work in Africa inspired Janu to film a full-length documentary about him and other "ordinary people" who have taken it upon themselves to help Sudanese refugees.

That is when Janu, whose filmmaking was limited to educational films, met Ehrlich.

"A lot of people have compassion, but these people took compassion to the next level to do something," Janu said.

"Facing Sudan" is about activism. The film shows the passion that has spurred ordinary people to dedicate their lives to a country imploded by war and genocide.

Over the last 20 years, millions have died in Sudan. A civil war devastated the South and a genocide is occurring in Darfur.

Ehrlich has been making presentations to schools ever since he smuggled the photos and drawings out of Darfur. Interestingly, he doesn't know where the original drawings are.

"They have a life of their own," he said with a smile. "They keep traveling."

Ehrlich said he last heard the original drawings, which were framed by art students at Temple University, were in Canada at museums.

"I could have never imagined the exposure they have gotten," he said. "I never really looked at them until I got back home. I felt they had to get exposure, but I never could have imagined this much exposure."

Soon the drawings and Ehrlich will get more exposure. More importantly for Ehrlich, the voices of the children of Darfur will be heard.

Reach Kevin Callahan at (856) 317-7821 or


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