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Debbie Goodstein Headshot

Finding My Mother, Finding Myself

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My film Mighty Fine is a family drama based in part on my own family experience. I grew up in a home that was patriarchal. My father was domineering, haunted by a past that included both emotional and physical abuse. My mother was a Holocaust survivor, a hidden child who had learned submission as a survival tactic. My parent's loved us deeply but couldn't spare us from their pasts and as a result my sister and I came to understand the concept of the intergenerational transmission of trauma in a very personal way.

The film portrays, Joe Fine (played with incredible force by Chazz Palminteri), a striving man, grappling with economic uncertainty and a failing business that triggers his inner rage. Joe is emblematic of the insecure man of that era, who gains his self-esteem as the family provider. As a result of his inability to be the strong a breadwinner, he becomes a depressed and explosive father and husband who can't suppress his fury. Andie MacDowell, who plays wife/mother Stella, is equally as engaging. The Fine's two daughters are played by Canadian actress Jodelle Ferland, best known for her star turn in the latest Twilight, and Rainey Qualley, Andie MacDowell's daughter.

The film shows the demise of the patriarchal family structure, with Joe Fine as a symbol of the withering male head of the house. It explores the notion of men and their inclination towards violence as a means of releasing anger and frustration. Joe's gun arsenal and his shooting spree are evidence of his uncontrollable pain and the story acts as a cautionary tale on the contemporary issue of gun violence.

The Museum of Tolerance, where we will screen the film on May 9, is the perfect venue for this film which touches on the Holocaust in a very real way. Stella is shown to have been damaged by her Holocaust experience and her extreme passivity sets the stage for the acceptance of future acts of violence in her life. Joe is an angry man with a gun who takes out his rage on his family. Here Joe's violence which is almost exclusively emotional violence, is ultimately viewed as a sickness and is treated, but large scale rage with similar sources can ultimately lead to large scale acts of violence, even wars and holocausts. It is this inherent and age-old tendency of man to seek violent solutions to frustrations and problems that we must explore and treat preemptively even on a societal level, if we are ever to eliminate savagery from the human experience.

I made this film, in part, as a catharsis, and in part as a deterrent -- a reminder of the destructive power of unresolved anger on the domestic level but also on a universal level. Stella is a Holocaust survivor who has witnessed the most barbarous instincts in man. She survives that heinous world only to find herself tormented on a personal level by a man who is also a victim of violence. The cyclical nature of violence and its ability to permeate generations and inflict ongoing wounds is inestimable. The hope lies in the love inherent within families and between people. Beyond that it lies in an ability to forgive and a calculated focus on healing and improving ourselves.

In honor of Mother's Day Lionsgate will release Mighty Fine on VOD this week, for more information, please go to: www.mightyfine-themovie.com.

Debbie Goodstein (writer/director) is an award-winning writer/producer/director in New York City, and has worked both in the industry and independent arena, in both narrative and documentary formats.

She made her directing debut with the acclaimed feature documentary Voices From the Attic, distributed both domestically and internationally, and winner of over 20 awards including: the Berlin Film Festival's OCIC Award, the Lillian Gish Award, Global Film Festival Best Documentary, and the San Francisco Film Festival's Golden Gate Award.

Goodstein co-wrote the Emmy nominated Saying Kaddish for ABC television. Her script Traveling Man was a finalist in the "Scriptapalooza National Screenwriting Contest." She was a producer/writer/director of the television documentary Growing Up in America, for Fox Television, and directed the short award-winning film, Urban Myth. She produced and directed the television pilot The Bubbies which was sold to NBC Television. Goodstein was an executive producer on the film Dirk and Betty featuring Marisa Tomei and an ensemble cast.

Goodstein wrote, produced, and directed the industrial film Coming to America for the global corporation, CanAm Enterprises with worldwide distribution. She has directed additional industrial films including Staten Island Unique New York and The Sales Rap for Warner Lambert Corporation.

She is currently directing for Off Broadway. Her script Kindergarten Confidential a musical comedy, was showcased in NYC November 2007 and is presently under consideration for an Off-Broadway run.

Goodstein received her BA from Brown University and her MFA with Honors in film from Columbia University.