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CARVALHOS JOURNEY A One-Hour Documentary Film Solomon Nunes


									                           CARVALHO’S JOURNEY
                            A One-Hour Documentary Film

                             Solomon Nunes Carvalho,
                               Daguerreotype, 1850

  Proposal for a PBS documentary film about the life and times of Solomon Nunes
Carvalho, 19th Century Jewish-American artist, photographer, explorer, and inventor.

                            DOWN LOW PICTURES LLC
                             55 Washington St, Suite 630
                              Brooklyn, NY 11201
                               Tel: (718) 624-5033
                                Fax: (718) 624-5034
American Jews no longer thought in terms of defined limitations but rather as Americans whose minds
and opportunities knew no boundaries and could expand with the West. A new Jew was being formed.
When presented with the opportunity, the American Jew, even if a recent immigrant, reached for the
Golden ring and went through the "Golden Door."
                                                                                          -Jerry Klinger

…My heart beat with fervent anxiety, and whilst I felt happy, and free from the usual care and trouble,
I still could not master the nervous debility which seized me while surveying the grand and majestic
works of nature. I was far way from the comforts of my home. A deep sigh of longing for the society of
man wrested itself from my breast. Shall I return, and not accomplish the object of my journey? No, I
will onward, and trust to the Great Spirit…
                                                                                -Solomon Nunes Carvalho
                                              Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West, 1854

A faded daguerreotype of Native American
lodges sits in the Library of Congress, one of the
oldest existing photographs of the American
West. It is presumed to be the work of Solomon
Nunes Carvalho, an artist and daguerreotypist
who accompanied explorer John C. Fremont on
his fifth and final expedition to the West in
1853. How Carvalho came to this most illustrious
and dangerous of positions and how it affected
him for the rest of his life is the subject of our

The tale of Solomon Nunes Carvalho is one of the greatest untold stories in American Jewish
history. Born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1815, Carvalho was an observant Jew who made
extraordinary contributions to American history and culture – a man whose talent and
ingenuity vaulted him to the highest ranks of the country’s practitioners of art and science - yet
who remained firmly rooted in his devotion to his own community and beliefs.

                     Carvalho’s Journey is a one-hour documentary film for PBS that examines
                     the 19th century Jewish-American experience through the lens of one
                     extraordinary man’s eclectic and exemplary life. A Sephardic Jew of Spanish-
                     Portuguese descent, Solomon Nunes Carvalho hailed from Charleston but
                     lived at various times in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York, and traveled
                     widely across the country. Fueled by artistic talent, adventurous spirit,
                     commitment to community, and an unquenchable curiosity about the natural
                     and spiritual worlds, Carvalho cut a wide swatch across the major cultural,
                     intellectual, and historical currents of the 19th century.

                 Carvalho’s professional accomplishments – as a successful painter, pioneering
                 daguerreotypist, explorer, inventor, and published memoirist – were matched
only by his personal ones, as a community-minded Jew, a founder of Jewish organizations in
numerous American cities, and a leading participant in many of the pressing religious and

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                   2
intellectual issues of his day. Carvalho was a product of a singular period in American and
Jewish history, when the young country was full of creativity, industry, and independent spirit,
and its small community of Jews was figuring out how to fit into the larger culture while still
maintaining its unique religious identity.


Produced for broadcast on PBS, exhibition at film festivals, and for
wide educational and DVD distribution, Carvalho’s Journey will tell the
little-known story of Carvalho’s life and works, centering on his daring
and exhilarating journey across the continent as the official
photographer of John C. Fremont’s 1853 expedition, a journey which
almost cost him his life. Drawing extensively from Carvalho’s best-
selling memoir, Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West, the film
will be both an introduction to and an examination of Carvalho’s
amazing life story, as well as an incisive and penetrating look at the
Jewish-American experience of the mid-19th century. The film will
utilize interviews, narration, voiceover recordings, original music,
period paintings and photographs, dramatic landscape cinematography,
and Carvalho’s own paintings and daguerreotypes to weave a complex
and visually stunning narrative presentation of the story.

In addition to his adventures in the West, the film will explore the story of Carvalho’s early life
and education, his youthful wanderings which took him to sea and abroad, his experimentation
with the earliest forms of photography (he is almost certainly the first Jewish American
photographer), his late career as a successful inventor and elder statesman, and, especially, his
career as a successful portrait and landscape painter in studios he established in Charleston,
Philadelphia, and Baltimore. Considered by many to be the first Jewish American to make his
living solely as an artist, Carvalho specialized in portraiture but was also devoted to creating
historical and Biblical narrative paintings.

                                 The film will be produced and directed by Steve Rivo, an
                                 award-winning documentary filmmaker who has worked as a
                                 producer of a number of historical documentary films made for
                                 public television (see bio below). The film will principally draw
                                 on the book Photo Odyssey: Solomon Carvalho’s Remarkable
                                 Western Adventure, (Houghten Mifflin, 2000) by Arlene
                                 Hirschfelder, and will also feature the work of Robert
                                 Shlaer, a present-day daguerreotypist who retraced
                                 Carvalho’s journey for his book Sights Once Seen (University of
New Mexico, 2000). The film is sponsored by the National Center for Jewish Film, a
non-profit distributor, motion picture archive, and resource center, with the largest, most
diverse collection of Jewish-themed film in the world.

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                   3

                                             At the time of Fremont’s expedition in 1853, Solomon
                                             Carvalho, then 38 years old, was a successful artist,
                                             businessman and active member of the Jewish community
                                             with a wife and three children. Some years earlier,
                                             Carvalho had gained prominence for his role in the debate
                                             over Orthodox versus Reform Judaism, which had begun
                                             in Charleston during the 1820’s. Carvalho’s father, David,
                                             helped found the first Reform congregation in the U.S.,
                                             but surprisingly, Solomon held fast to Orthodoxy and
                                             actively tried to promote and advocate for traditional
Jewish practice. In the Jewish newspaper The Occident, he wrote,
“Religion must signify itself in our actions in life, ay, it must embrace
the whole sphere of our activities and affections.” Yet he saw little
conflict in his devotion to religious practice and faith and his full
participation in secular culture and endeavors. So when the famed
explorer John C. Fremont announced that he was commissioning a
photographic and artistic record of his fifth and final expedition in
search of a railroad route to the Pacific ocean, Carvalho, who had
recently begun practicing the new art of daguerreotyping, jumped at
the chance to join Fremont.

Carvalho was selected to document the journey, and along the way, he
kept an extraordinary journal. His writings resulted in a book-length
account, which when published in 1857, made him a minor celebrity. The journal is an
insightful, heartfelt, and harrowing account of the Fremont expedition, and it provides an
                        unusually rich and detailed foundation for a documentary portrait of daily
                        life on the dangerous westward trail. Carvalho related the dramatic
                        adventures of the group’s 2400 mile, five-month journey from New York
                        City to Parowan, Utah, which included a disastrous attempt to cross the
                        Rocky Mountains in the deep freeze of winter. Traveling by stagecoach,
                        steamer, pony, mule and by foot, Carvalho and his fellow explorers faced
                        tremendous obstacles, including grass fires, frigid winds, drenching
                        rainstorms, and driving snow, but they also discovered astonishing vistas
                        and the stunning terrain of the unexplored middle American West. As an
                        urbane Jewish city dweller, Carvalho took great pleasure in detailing his
                        experiences and poking fun at himself while learning to ride a horse and
                        saddle a mule, hunt buffalo, and live off the land. He described the difficulty
                        of hauling his cumbersome gear and making daguerreotypes in waist-deep
                        snowdrifts, and, perhaps most challengingly, trying to maintain his
commitment to Judaism while adapting to the food (horsemeat was a staple) and the extremely
challenging conditions. By turns amusing, absorbing, and startling, the book’s narrative begins as
a story of a promising and educational journey and becomes a life-or-death odyssey of near
starvation, freezing limbs, and tragedy before the group reaches safety among the Mormons of

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                   4
Carvalho’s life was dramatically transformed by the experience. The
breathtaking landscapes of the American West energized his spiritual
and creative pursuits, but the trip also offered Carvalho unique
possibilities for cultural interactions that he never could have
dreamed of while living in Charleston or Baltimore. His experiences
with the American Indian guides in his group (from the Lenape tribe)
and other members of the Cheyenne and Ute he encountered, as
well as an historic encounter with Mormon leader Brigham Young,
broadly widened his view of the world – and were unique for a Jew
of his generation. Young, one of the most fascinating characters of
the 19th century, assisted in Carvalho’s rescue from near death and
facilitated his rehabilitation in Salt Lake City, where the two enjoyed
wide-ranging conversations about their respective religious

After the expedition and a brief stay in Los Angeles, where he
opened an art studio and helped the tiny Jewish community establish
a Hebrew Benevolent Society, Carvalho returned east, carrying the
influences of his western journey with him. He continued painting and making photographs, but
now focused on landscapes, and he played an active role in numerous Jewish communities,
helping to found synagogues and Hebrew schools, serving on numerous boards, and directing
efforts to fight anti-Semitism. In Baltimore, Philadelphia, and eventually New York – where he
lived out the rest of his life – Carvalho wrote about and participated in local and national
dialogues about Jewish affairs, politics, education, and art. In 1869, after he developed cataracts
and became unable to paint, Carvalho resumed work on an old invention, a steam-heating
apparatus, which earned him three patents, a Medal of Excellence from the American Institute,
and greater financial success than his painting studios, allowing him to live comfortably until his
death in 1897 at the age of 82.

                                                      Comfortably traversing many of the
                                                      competing dualities that shape American life,
                                                      Carvalho was a modern 19th century
                                                      “Renaissance man” – an artist and scientist, a
                                                      family man and adventurer, a secular
                                                      intellectual and traditional Jew with faith in
                                                      both God and the material world. Carvalho’s
                                                      insistence on maintaining his deep Jewish faith
                                                      within the context of an increasingly
                                                      modernizing American world foreshadows
                                                      many of the conflicts Jews – and other
                                                      minorities – met with at the dawn of the 20th
                                                      century and beyond. In Carvalho, as one
                                                      writer has argued, we can recognize a
                                                      “trailblazing phenomenon” and the beginnings
                                                      of the truly modern Jewish-American.

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                 5

        Carvalho’s Journey is being produced for national television broadcast on PBS, for
screening at film festivals, for DVD and educational distribution, and possibly for a limited
theatrical release in selected markets. In early 2008, MPT (Maryland Public Television) agreed
to serve as the film’s presenting station to PBS, to distribute the film nationally, and to provide
in-kind production services and creative oversight.

        A PBS national broadcast gives the film the potential to reach nearly every American
household. The film’s PBS broadcast will be accompanied by marketing and publicity campaigns
orchestrated by MPT that include off and on-air promotion, advertising, press releases,
television reviews, and newspaper and magazine articles in publications related to film, art &
photography, Jewish life and American history. The wide appeal of the subject matter and little-
known aspect of story has drawn early interest from writers from national magazines, and
indicate that the film’s release will be widely covered in the media.

        Additionally, Jewish film festivals are a significant and growing means of distribution, and
serve to create excellent press opportunities, in addition to bringing Jewish films to disparate
audiences in the far reaches of the U.S. and around the world. There are over 50 active Jewish
Film Festivals including noted ones in San Francisco, New York, Boston, Jerusalem, Toronto,
Vancouver, Washington D.C., London, Miami and other places. The producers have already
received inquiries from directors of the Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, held annually in New
York, and the New York Jewish Film festival, both of which expressed interest in screening the
film upon its completion. Because the subject matter of Carvalho’s Journey is quite unique
for a Jewish film (American Jewish and Sephardic history), the producers have been assured that
the film will have a busy life on the Jewish Festival “circuit.”

         In educational markets, the film has already been picked up for distribution by the
National Center for Jewish Film (also the project’s Fiscal Sponsor). NCJF, a non-profit
organization, is the largest distributor of Jewish-themed film and video material in the world,
and has over 25 years experience distributing hundreds of films to schools, libraries and
community centers all across North America, as well as experience creating successful
outreach programs and teachers’ guides to accompany films in the classroom. Last year, the
Center provided 35mm and 16mm films and professional-grade video rentals to theaters, film
festivals, educators, libraries, museums, universities, and community centers in such places as
Stockholm, Hong Kong, Vienna, Beijing, Rio de Janeiro, Barcelona, Berlin, Juno, and Krakow,
and at the Jerusalem Film Festival (for the 19th consecutive year), the Palm Springs International
Film Festival, Lincoln Center and Film Forum in New York, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial
Museum in Washington, D.C.

       When Carvalho’s Journey is complete, the producers plan to work diligently to raise
additional funds to travel with the film and create as much opportunity as possible to participate
in community outreach screenings and discussions.

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                   6

Steve Rivo

Steve Rivo is an award-winning documentary film and television producer and the founder of Down Low
Pictures. He has produced, directed or written documentaries for PBS, Court TV, VH1 and
independently. Selected credits include co-producer of the Emmy and DuPont award-winning, multi-
part PBS series New York: A Documentary Film (directed by Ric Burns), producer of two of Burns’ films
for the PBS series American Experience: Eugene O’Neill (2006, Emmy Award) and Ansel Adams (2002,
Emmy award), director and producer of numerous documentaries for Court TV including Tragedy in
Telluride (2008, Telly Award) Heartshot (2004, Telly Award), A Deadly Campaign (2003, Telly Award),
Mad Scientist (2007) and the limited documentary series High Stakes with Ben Mezrich (2005). Steve has
also produced and directed documentary projects for non-profit organizations including Columbia
University, the American Institute of Architects, and the Center for Online Judaic Studies.

Director of Photography
David A. Ford

Over the last decade David has worked on countless commercial, narrative and documentary films. As
cameraman, some credits include the Emmy-winning PBS documentaries New York: A Documentary Film,
and Divided Highways, as well as biographies of Eugene O’Neill, Alexander Calder, and Richard Rogers.
David has also shot for New York Times Television, TLC, A&E, MTV, Court TV and many other
producers and networks. David recently Executive Produced and shot GidyUp! On The Rodeo Circuit for
Logo/MTV. His lighting designs can be seen in four feature-length Independent films. David teaches
Cinematography in the Columbia University Graduate Film Department.

Associate Producer
Dan Lewis

Dan Lewis has worked as associate producer at Down Low Pictures since 2005 on all company
productions including Mad Scientist, Family Betrayal and Tragedy in Telluride (all for Court TV). Dan began
his career as an intern and production assistant at Moxie Firecracker Productions where he worked
many projects including Girlhood, Pandemic: Facing AIDS, A Boy’s Life and The Nazi Officer’s Wife. He was
then a production assistant for Social Media Productions on The Fight for the PBS series American
Experience, and an associate producer and videographer with Documania Films on The Voices of Civil
Rights for The History Channel. At KPI Telelvion he associate produced A&E Network’s Biography
Series, and programs for OLN Network and TLC.

Fiscal Sponsor
The National Center for Jewish Film

The National Center for Jewish Film -- a unique non-profit motion picture archive, distributor, and
resource center -- houses the largest, most comprehensive collection of Jewish-themed film and video in
the world. The ongoing mission of NCJF is to collect, restore, preserve, catalogue, and exhibit films
with artistic and educational value relevant to the Jewish experience and to disseminate these materials
to the widest possible audience. NCJF is a 501c3 non-profit institution located at Brandeis University in
Waltham, MA

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                           7
The project has assembled a distinguished board of advisors drawn from academia, the art
world and film to advise the production.

Elizabeth Kessin Berman
Author and curator of 1989 Maryland Jewish Historical Society exhibit on Solomon Carvalho.

Ric Burns
Documentary Filmmaker and director of numerous PBS films including artist biographies Andy Warhol
(2006), Eugene O’Neill (2006) and Ansel Adams (2002).

Daniel J. Czitrom
Professor of American History and Culture, Mt. Holyoke College; Specialist in 19th century urban

Arlene Hirschfelder
Curator, educator and award-winning author of over two dozen books including Photo Odyssey: Solomon
Carvalho’s Remarkable Western Adventure 1853-54.

Ava F. Kahn
Author of Jewish Life in the American West, and author of the introduction to new version of Carvalho’s
Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West.

David Oestreicher
Leading authority on the Lenape (Delaware) and related tribes; Curator, writer and scholar of
Anthropology and Hebraic Studies.

Sharon Pucker Rivo
Co-Founder and Executive Director of National Center for Jewish Film; Adjunct Associate Professor in
the Near Eastern and Judaic Studies Department at Brandeis University.

Dale Rosengarten
Curator of the Jewish Heritage Collection at the College of Charleston; editor of A Portion of the People:
Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life.

Jonathan Sarna
Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University; Author and leading scholar of
American Jewish History.

Eileen Hallet Stone
Oral historian, author and scholar specializing in Jews in Utah.

Robert Shlaer
Author and photographer of Sights Once Seen: Daguerreotyping Fremont’s Last Expedition through the
Rockies; Professional daguerreotypist and scholar.

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                                                          8
Arlene Hirschfelder, writer and curator
Eileen Hallet Stone, writer
Robert Shlaer, author and daguerreotypist
Martha Sandweiss, Professor of American Studies, Amherst College
John Mack Faragher, Professor of History, Yale University

Elizabeth Kessin Berman, former curator, Jewish Museum of Maryland
Ava F. Kahn, Professor of Jewish History
Jonathan Sarna, Professor of History, Brandeis University
Joan Sturhahn and Jonathan Ffrench, relatives of Solomon Carvalho
Patricia Nelson Limerick, scholar
Dale Rosengarten, curator, College of Charleston

New York
Charleston, S.C.
Kansas City, MO (Westport)
Bent’s Fort Historic Site, La Junta, CO
Salt Lake City
Goblin Valley and Capitol Reef State Parks, Utah
Parowan, Utah
Cimarron Ridge Colorado

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                  9
                                    FOR MORE INFORMATION
                                       PLEASE CONTACT

                                            Steve Rivo
                                       Down Low Pictures LLC
                                     55 Washington St, Suite 630
                                        Brooklyn, NY 11201

         All contributions to support the production of Carvalho’s Journey
                                are tax-deductible

Carvalho’s Journey, proposal for a documentary film                          10

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