Richard Trank is an Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker whose latest film is The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers, based on the best-selling book by Ambassador Yehuda Avner. The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers, which Trank wrote and produced along with Rabbi Marvin Hier, takes the audience inside the offices of Israel’s Prime Ministers, through the eyes of an insider, Yehuda Avner, who served as a chief aide, English language note-taker and speechwriter to Levi Eshkol, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin, and Shimon Peres. The first of two parts (the second part to be released in spring 2014), the documentary focuses on Ambassador Avner’s years working with Prime Ministers Levi Eshkol and Golda Meir and then US Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin. The second part, The Prime Ministers: Soldiers and Peacemakers, will examine Ambassador Avner’s experiences with Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Shimon Peres as well as his service as Israel’s Ambassador to England. Starring the voices of Sandra Bullock as Golda Meir, Michael Douglas as Yitzhak Rabin, Leonard Nimoy as Levi Eshkol and Christoph Waltz as Menachem Begin, The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers is the 13th release by Moriah Films, the documentary filmmaking division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, of which Trank is the Executive Producer and principal Writer/Director.
In 2012, Trank wrote and directed It Is No Dream, exploring the life and times of Theodor Herzl, father of the modern State of Israel. Once again co-writing and producing along with Rabbi Marvin Hier, It Is No Dream is narrated by Academy Award winner, Sir Ben Kingsley and stars Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz as the voice of Theodor Herzl. The film examines how Herzl, a well-known journalist and playwright, an assimilated, Budapest-born Jew, horrified by the Dreyfus trial in Paris and the anti-Semitism he saw spreading across Europe, took upon himself the task of attempting to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine against all odds. Over the span of 8 years, Herzl organized and led a worldwide political movement that, within 50 years, led to the establishment of the State of Israel. The film follows Herzl as he meets with Kings, Prime Ministers, Ambassadors, a Sultan, a Pope and government ministers from Constantinople to St. Petersburg, from Paris to Berlin, from Vienna to Vilna in his quest to build a Jewish nation.
In 2011, Trank wrote and directed Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor, Sir Ben Kingsley, the documentary focused on Winston Churchill’s years in the political wilderness, his early opposition to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, and his return to government as Prime Minister in May 1940 by the demand of the British people. Sir Martin Gilbert, historical consultant for the film and Winston Churchill’s official biographer, theorizes that Western Civilization as we know it was saved by Churchill during the period when he, alone among the world’s leaders, stood up to Hitler and Nazism. He adds that had Churchill’s warnings about Nazi Germany’s racial policies towards Jews been heeded in the early 1930’s, the Holocaust would never have occurred. As historian John Lukacs explains in the film, Winston Churchill did not win the war in 1940. The war was won once the Americans and the Soviets entered the battle in 1941. But Lukacs points out that in 1940, the war could have been lost if it was not for Churchill. Among those featured in the film are Winston S. Churchill (his grandson and namesake), Celia Sandys (one of his granddaughters), best-selling author and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, singer and actress Dame Vera Lynn and many eyewitnesses who survived the Battle of Britain. Featuring rare stills and archival film footage, the documentary also includes newly filmed sequences at Churchill’s country home, Chartwell, the War Cabinet Rooms, the Parliament, Dunkirk, among other locations. Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny played in film festivals around the world and was one of the highest grossing theatrical documentaries of 2011.
In 2009, Trank wrote the screenplay and directed Against The Tide, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman. Against The Tide examined the conflict that erupted in the American Jewish community in the late 1930’s and 40’s over the best means to rescue the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. It told the little known story of Peter Bergson, who stood up against the American Jewish leadership and the Roosevelt Administration in his tireless efforts to save the Jews of Europe. The documentary also looked at how European Jews desperately tried to get the word to the outside world about what was happening to them to no avail. Shot on location in England, Germany, and Israel and featuring a never before seen interview with Bergson filmed by Claude Lanzmann (Shoah), the film also included an original score composed and conducted by Emmy and Grammy Award winner Lee Holdridge. Screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, the script for Against The Tide was nominated by the Writers Guild of America for Best Original Documentary Screenplay. It currently airs on the Documentary Channel and on IFC/Sundance in Europe and Asia.
In 2007, Trank directed I Have Never Forgotten You, a comprehensive look at the life and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter and humanitarian who died in 2005. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, it featured interviews with longtime Wiesenthal associates, government leaders from around the world, friends and family members. Wiesenthal’s only child, Pauline, appeared in the film, giving her very first interview about her mother and father and their almost 70-year relationship. I Have Never Forgotten You was a selection of the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival, the Vienna International Film Festival, the Seattle International Film Festival as well as the Tribeca Film Festival where it was one of the top 10 films in the Audience Award category. It also won the Audience Award at the Cinevegas Film Festival and a Special Mention at the Jerusalem International Film Festival. I Have Never Forgotten You had successful theatrical releases in the US, the UK, France, Germany and Austria and has been a best-selling DVD in North America, Europe and Australia. It is currently available on DVD through Starz Entertainment, which owns its broadcast rights as well.
In 2006, Trank produced and directed Ever Again, which examined the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and its connection to international terrorism. Ever Again was narrated by Kevin Costner and released in the US by Rocky Mountain Films in December 2006. It was also a selection of a number of film festivals in North America and Europe.
In early 2005, Trank completed production on Beautiful Music, which was the winner of the 2005 Hollywood Film Festival for Best Documentary. Narrated by Brooke Shields, Beautiful Music told the emotional story of the relationship between an Orthodox Jewish music teacher and her blind and autistic Palestinian student.
In 2004, Trank wrote and directed Unlikely Heroes, narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, chronicling seven extraordinary people who either resisted or defied the Nazis during the Holocaust. Unlikely Heroes was a selection of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as well as the Hollywood Film Festival, among others.
In 2001, Trank wrote and directed In Search of Peace, Part One: 1948-1967, an exploration of the first decades of Israel’s existence, narrated by Michael Douglas and featuring the voices of Edward Asner, Anne Bancroft, Richard Dreyfus, and Michael York. In Search of Peace was featured at film festivals throughout North America, South America, Europe, Israel and South Africa.
In 1997, Trank produced The Long Way Home for which he won his Academy Award in 1998. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the film examined the period between 1945-48, when the survivors of the Holocaust rebuilt their lives and helped to create the State of Israel. In addition to the Oscar, The Long Way Home, was selected as part of the documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Golden Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival. It aired on both Showtime and the Sundance Channel as well as on England’s Channel Four.
In 1994, Trank was the Executive Producer of Liberation, narrated by Sir Ben Kingsley, Whoopi Goldberg, Patrick Stewart and Miriam Margolyes. The documentary told the story of the liberation of Europe and Hitler’s death camps by the Allies. Screened at the 1995 Berlin International Film Festival, among others, it was selected by the State of Israel as its official film commemorating the 50th anniversary of VE Day. It aired on Cinemax and England’s Channel Four.
In 1990, Trank co-produced the documentary Echoes That Remain, about life in pre-WWII Eastern Europe, narrated by Martin Landau and Miriam Margolyes. The film won the 1992 Houston International Film Festival’s Gold Jury Award.
For the past two decades, Trank has also served as the Executive Producer and principal writer and director of the film presentations for the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and New York. He will be working in the same capacity for the Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem, currently under construction in Israel. In Denver, he was also the Executive Producer for the films at The Cell, the Counter Terrorism Learning Lab at Denver’s Museum of Art. Throughout the 1980’s he was an accomplished producer of radio news and public affairs programming, having written and produced more than 5,000 one-minute radio features and more than 300 half-hour radio documentaries aired nationally by the Public Affairs Broadcast Group. In 1981, he created the weekly news magazine Page One, which aired on more than 150 radio stations across the US.
Trank earned his BA degree at the University of California, Berkeley and did graduate work at the University of Southern California. He currently serves as Executive Producer of Moriah Films, the documentary filming division of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and has been the Center’s Media Projects Director since 1984.
Echoes That Remain (1991) Co-Producer
Liberation (1995) Executive Producer
The Long Way Home (1997) Producer
In Search of Peace (2001) Writer, Director
Unlikely Heroes (2003) Writer, Director
Beautiful Music (2005) Writer, Director
Ever Again (2006) Writer, Director
I Have Never Forgotten You (2007) Writer, Director
Against The Tide (2009) Writer, Director
Winston Churchill: Walking With Destiny (2010) Writer, Director
It Is No Dream (2012) Writer, Director
The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers (2013) Writer, Director