Continuing on the ‘Road to Eden’

The Sept. 21 Scottsdale premiere of the documentary “Road to Eden” wasn’t the end of the journey for director Doug Passon — it was only the beginning.

The day after the sold-out screening at the Valley of the Sun Jewish Community Center, Passon went to St. Louis to show the film to the congregations who were featured in it.

A few weeks after that, he headed to Dothan, Ala., another town included in the movie, for another screening.

Showing the movie to the people featured in it is “particularly nerve-wracking,” Passon says, “because it was so very important for us to ‘get it right’ and honor the people and their stories.” However, “the reaction has been beyond my wildest expectations, both with the general audiences and with the specific towns featured.”

Passon’s ambitions for the film include more than screenings at synagogues and Jewish community centers — he’s submitted “Road to Eden” to more than 25 Jewish film festivals around the country and already been accepted to two of them. In March 2014, “Road to Eden” will be the closing night film of the Seattle Jewish Film Festival; a concert by Dan Nichols & 18 (the band featured in the film) will be held after the screening.

The other film festival screening is a little closer to home, at our very own Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival. “Road to Eden” will be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014, at Harkins Camelview 5 Theatres. Visit gpjff.org for tickets.

The next big event for “Road to Eden” is at a place close to Passon’s heart: URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute in Zionsville, Ind., a location featured in the film and the place where Passon met his friend and collaborator Dan Nichols decades ago.

The camp “is the place where our Jewish identities were forged,” Passon says.

The Dec. 7 event is called “Road to Ethan,” as the screening will serve as a fundraiser for the family of Ethan Kadish and the HelpHOPELive Great Lakes Catastrophic Injury Fund. Ethan is one of three campers who were struck by lightning last summer at the camp; he is the only one that has not fully recovered and requires ongoing medical care.

“It’s going to be an amazingly special and emotionally charged night,” Passon says.

For more information on Ethan or to donate, visit guci.urjcamps.org/ethan. For more information about “Road to Eden,” visit roadtoedentour.com.

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