“Above and Beyond,” produced by Nancy Spielberg (yes, sister to Steven), is a wild adventure tale you’ve got to see. It’s a documentary about a team of Jewish-American pilots who, after surviving World War II, decided to risk everything to save the State of Israel. Spielberg granted an exclusive interview to Examiner Dorri Olds to talk about this little indie that could. Directed by Roberta Grossman, written by Sophie Sartain and with Harris Done as cinematographer, “Above and Beyond” tells the strange tale of a small group of heroic young men with chutzpah. By the seat of their pilot pants, these men created the first Israeli air force in 1948 and saved the Jewish homeland.
Dorri Olds: Have you thought about making this into a feature film?
Nancy Spielberg: Oh, I have. It’s like a cross between “Catch Me If You Can,” “Band of Brothers” and “Indiana Jones.” [Laughs] All those elements — the capers, the clandestine operations and the bigger story — have so many wonderful pieces to it, more than we could fit in the documentary.
Have you daydreamed about who could be in the movie?
I think Leo DiCaprio as [the pilot] Al Schwimmer would be good. I’ll ask my 26-year-old daughter, “Who do you think is hot and cool and can play swarthy, sexy pilot types?”
Does it make your job easier or harder to have such a famous brother?
[Laughs] A little of both. It made it much harder to raise money, much harder. You know, like it’s hard to raise money for the Shoah Foundation because everybody thinks Steven Spielberg supports the Shoah Foundation completely. It was hard because I did have to answer that question. I would gather people together, show them a sample reel, tell them I’m raising money, it’s a 501(c)(3) not for profit, and I would get these questions, “Why can’t your brother give you the money?” Or “Where’s Jeffrey and David, his friends?” So I had to say, without being defensive, “I didn’t ask and that’s not the kind of relationship I want to have with my brother. I also think that this is project that we all need to support. This is not a one-man-show.” In that sense it was tough.
On the other hand, the benefit is that I feel like a lot of doors opened up and people listened to the story and I already knew a lot of people that I contacted to work. I’m very close with James Moll. He’s an incredible filmmaker who started off making home movies for my brother. “It’s Kate’s birthday, let’s make a movie.” Then he went on to make “Last Days” and “The Foo Fighters.” He’s won Oscars and Grammys and Emmys. He’s incredible. The joke was that I went to James first and said, “I need your help,” and he said, “OK, your brother helps me. I help you.” He had Harris Done, which was my dp [director of photography] who I’ve known through James. James had Larry Benjamin, the guy who mixes sound who is incredible. These people were all willing to work with me.
Click here for Part II
Click here for Part III
“Above and Beyond” opened January 30, 2015 in New York City at Village East Cinema.