At 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 15, WCNY will air “The Witness,” the personal transformation story of Eddie Lama, a Brooklyn construction contractor turned animal rescuer, as part of a special edition of its weekly public affairs series, “Central Issues.” The 43-minute film is the first for Ithaca filmmakers James LaVeck and Jenny Stein.
“The Witness” tells the story of Eddie Lama, whose life went from one of despair and hopelessness to one of compassion and advocacy after “being smitten by a kitten.” Lama, who learned about violence through his own rites of passage on the mean streets of Brooklyn, now speaks with eloquence, passion and humility about the pressing need to protect the vulnerable. That a man with his life experience could be so completely transformed by spending time with a kitten is a testimony both to the magic of the human-animal relationship and the magic of the human spirit.” Lama received the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award in 2001.
“The Witness” has been an official selection at 24 film festivals, garnering 10 awards, including Best Documentary Feature at the Brooklyn Film Festival, Best Documentary Award at the New Jersey International Film Festival, and Outstanding Breakthrough Documentary Award at CineWomen New York.
Included in this special edition of “Central Issues,” WCNY's David Valesky will host a debate about the use of animals for fur, an issue highlighted in “The Witness” as part of Lama's account of his evolution toward animal advocacy. Speaking for the animals will be the documentary's subject, Eddie Lama, and Rick Swain, the vice president of Investigative Services for the Humane Society of the United States. Representing the fur industry's point of view will be Jim Petreszyn, vice president of the Oswego County Trapper's Association and Pat Arnold of the Lewis County Sportsmens Association.
“The Witness” was produced by James LaVeck and directed by Jenny Stein, co-founders of the Ithaca-based non-profit Tribe of Heart, a national organization dedicated to using the power of film to transform public awareness of violence in our society, with a special emphasis on the human-animal relationship. Tribe of Heart's next film, “Peaceable Kingdom,” due this summer, will profile the founders of Watkins Glen-based Farm Sanctuary and the diverse community that works for the protection of farm animals. LaVeck and Stein are both Cornell graduates who have been working on publishing and media projects in Ithaca for the last 10 years.