Heartwarming True-Life Story Of A 39 Pound Man Wows Faith-Based Audiences Everywhere

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A 3D animator who creates amazing art despite the fact that he can only move a single finger on his left hand, his heartwarming, faith-filled life story has been captured in the award-winning documentary, 39 Pounds of Love.

Ami Ankilewitz was diagnosed at birth with an extremely rare and often fatal form of muscular dystrophy that severely limits physical growth and movement. Initially given six years to live, Ankilewitz is now 34 but weighs in at only 39 pounds. A 3D animator who creates amazing art despite the fact that he can only move a single finger on his left hand, his heartwarming, faith-filled life story has been captured in the award-winning documentary, 39 Pounds of Love.

When Israel-born director Dani Menkin is asked how he came up with the story for the film, his response gives a clue as to why faith-based organizations have championed this well crafted project: “In documentary film there is no script,” he says. “Only God can determine how the film and story will turn out.” 39 Pounds of Love won Audience Choice awards at 10 film festivals, was named "best documentary" at both the Palm Beach and Tahoe/Reno film festivals, and garnered the coveted 2005 Ophir Award, Israel's "Oscar."

Menkin is Jewish; his partners in the film project -- Ed and John Priddy of Priddy Brothers Entertainment (Boise, Idaho) -- are Christians. “Ami’s story has the universal themes of hope, perseverance and the triumph of the human spirit,” says CEO John Priddy. “These themes are the perfect fit for an interfaith discussion and dialogue about the intersection of life, faith and the deeper meaning of the human experience.”

The film has had over 100 non-theatrical showings in the last year, most of them hosted by either Jewish or Christian groups.

“39 Pounds of Love has been our most successful film so far,” says Ravit Turjeman, founder and director of Dragoman Films a New York -based company that distributes Israeli-directed films through both Jewish and Israeli groups. “From Jewish film festivals, to Hillel groups, to synagogue-sponsored events," says Turjeman, "the story of this one man’s courage to overcome amazing obstacles has opened to rave reviews with Jewish audiences throughout the U.S."

In October 2005, Fuller Theological Seminary (Los Angeles, CA) hosted the producers of 39 Pounds of Love at its annual Reel Spirituality event at the Directors Guild in Hollywood. “Reel Spirituality is a creative encounter between the church and Hollywood, featuring ministers and filmmakers in discovery of common ground as story tellers, image shapers and culture makers,” says Director Rob Johnston. “39 Pounds of Love was a perfect fit for our conference. Both the producers and the film were enthusiastically received.”

More than 150 Christian film and theology students, along with Sundance Film Festival attendees, had the chance to see 39 Pounds of Love this year -- at the second annual Windrider Forum during the February 2006 Sundance festival. “The audience's response was amazing,” says Menkin. “Here I am, a Jewish guy bringing my film to a Christian audience, at a Christian church, and I have never felt so welcomed in my life!” Mountain Vineyard Christian Fellowship (Park City, UT) hosts the annual forum where "39 Pounds of Love was the perfect closing night film" this year, according to Pastor Lenny Perata.

He and his congregation were delighted to host people from a wide number of countries, faiths and denominations. “During the week of Windrider, our church turns into a movie theater,” says Perata. “We just have a blast, and were totally blessed this year to be part of the excitement generated by 39 Pounds of Love.”

And while, as Menkin says, “God writes the scripts for documentary films,” he and others involved in this particular production are also counting on God's people -- through churches and parachurch organizations -- to sign up to show and view the film. Says Menkin, “I never imagined that God would help us with distribution.” But that's the plan.

To bring the Ami Ankilewitz story to your church or organization, contact Ravit Turjeman at Dragoman Films 718-971-5857. To purchase the 39 Pounds of Love DVD, go to the film’s Web site.

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Lisa Bracht

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