Lee Broda Talks Poetry & New Film ‘A Private War’

Lee Broda served as an executive producer on the finance side of the industry for the film A Private War, which recently received two Golden Globe nominations. Aside from film, Broda has an interest in poetry. She discusses with ATM the film and discoveries seen in her new poetry book ‘Whispers from the Moon.”

ATM: Does the location from where you are writing poetry influence the message you want to convey?

LB: I grew up in Israel writing poetry in Hebrew. So, the language I write in changed a lot. But Yes, I get inspired by the places I live in. I love to write outdoors and in nature. I travel a lot for work and I take the opportunity to explore new places for inspiration. I get to visit a lot of different cities each year. The locale does shape a lot of poems that I write.I left Israel at 19. I have been in the states for the past 13 years. The experience is very different in who I am now and who I was back then, before I left. We grow, evolve, and shape into who we are. My style and point of view have changed. A lot of different poets influence me. This helped shape and mold my style though out the years.

ATM: Are these American poets? Do you love Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson?

LB:Yes, I read different poets some American some international. I like Wislawa Szymborska who won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. I discovered her about three years ago. I love her point of view, and a lot of what she writes is beautiful. There is an Israeli poet whom I love and draws some of my inspiration from even though it’sin Hebrew. You can really feel her soul through her words. Yes, I’m familiar with Emily Dickinson. She has wonderful and powerful poems.There are a few of them I really love. The one about the heart breaking is great.

ATM: How did the progression of your growth impact the meaning of what you wrote about?

LB: Interesting question. My book Whispers from the Moon really captures my progression as a person and evolution as a woman as well. I was trying to find who I was, when I was younger. And it took me some time to discover my voice and place in the world. Especially, when I was trying to figure what I wanted to do and how to go about following my dreams. I remember sitting on my bedroom floor dreaming about living and working in the States and doing what I love in the entertainment business. A lot of it was dreaming, hoping, and daring to go after what I wanted. When I was younger, I was writing about love. Now,a lot of my poems are about observation, empowerment, and social comments about what is happening. There is one poem about the Times up movement. It is interesting. There were also personal things I was going through in my life such as relationships, finding my voice, growing up, discovering my strengths as a person, my womanhood and what I have to say in the world.

I started an organization which is called Women Creating Change, which is about empowering women from the Middle East because I wanted to work with more women,but also empower other women to do what they love and make a difference in the world through activism. For me writing poetry was a way to tap into my vulnerability and sharing myself became a focus. I realized the human experience is what brings us together and we all go through similar experiences. I work and do what I love, but we also go through rough times. We deal with heartbreak, loss, discrimination, and a lot of different issues on a regular basis. The more vulnerable and personal I allowed myself to be, the stronger the reactions I received from people. Some of the feedback is so touching and encouraging, especially the one I recover from women sharing that they go through the same experience and that the poem really helped them. I try to tap into our shared human experience and openly share who I am.

ATM: Is there a difference in the human experience in Israel to the human experience in America?

LB: Not anymore. We get to experience a lot of the similar things currently with what is happening in the world — the political climate now, not just in the states but also in Israel and around the world. Israel is known for living in a war zone state, because of the situation in the Middle East. It is now more global. We all understand what is happening and we all can relate to loss and terrorism sadly, because it is around us often. I served in the military in Israel. The soldiers and the role of the military has such a meaningful role and importance. We respect the role of the military became we all have to serve. I wrote a poem about a soldier and his wife waiting for him to come back from war. I shared it during Veterans Day, and the response was moving. People really connect to it. Doesn’t matter where you live in the world.

ATM: What intrigued you so much about the phases of the moon that made you want to split it up into four chapters in your book?

LB: It all started from the title Whispers from the Moon. It was a special experience writing this book. I did not think I will ever write a book or that I was a poet. I was writing for myself when inspiration hit. I was using poetry to try and process different experiences I was going through, or things I was reading about. I have been writing for many years.  I used to have a strict discipline and writing process every morning. This was helpful in being more creative and clear my head from all the noise. It was never about writing a book for me. Bu tone day, I sat down alone while in Israel in my house. And the thought hit me.and After that, it just poured out of me, and I just kept on writing. It felt stronger than me and something I needed to share to get out from within. English is not my first language, so it did not make sense at first. Writing created a space for me to deal with my doubts, my fears and issues I had about allowing myself to write in English. It felt like the book landed on the page. Obviously, it was a lot of work and process as well. But the main goal was the opportunity to share what I was going through and what I had to say with the world.

The moon represents the feminine energy; I connect to the moon in this way. I love nature and being outside. And like the moon, we go through stages in life and the moon phrases represent the experience I was going through personally. I am a positive person usually, and the moon represents this positive side of me and love, when it shines brightly. When it is full. We all go through different phrases. I was going through some tough times while writing the book. When our light is being dim, and something happens in our lives that is out of our control, you still have to find this little bit of brightness in you. Then you have the dark moments when you feel there is no light, and everything is not going to be okay. It is how you go through this and find your voice and who you are again that counts. The eclipse chapter is on the darker side. There is not light. It felt different in who I was as a person and at my core. I felt it was important to show this side as well, as life is not always great. We all go through this. The book ends with waxing.This is empowering one’s self and finding your voice again, and who you are.I’m already working on my next book, called Facing North. Which is about finding your true North and who you are.

ATM: What phase do you feel you are still in or just came out of?

LB: We always shift and change. Life is so fluid. I am in a good place because I found who I was again. I am working really hard every day to stay in the right mindset and try to empower others while inspiring myself as well to keep going.We all have these dark moments in between that are unexpected. It always evolves, we are never just one thing. I like to remind myself that our sorrow and happiness are always entwined

ATM: Why did you keep your poetry to yourself in the beginning and not share it like now?

LB:It felt very very private. My role as a producer was very different than my creative side, and who I am as a poet. It took some time for me to be brave and share this side of who I am. It took me a long time to realize that this is serious, and this is good. I doubted myself a lot in the beginning. especially because I try to present the best work I can. I knew I needed to write a lot more and get better before I was comfortable sharing anything. I had a lot to learn. And that took time. understanding the craft of poetry and putting time into it and connect to that side of my soul that wanted to get out.

ATM: Express the bravery you saw in the eyes of the main character in A Private War.

LB: This is what attracted me to the story. Her story and bravery. Marie Colvin was a journalist, and she was very passionate about the stories she was telling.She had a voice and wanted to give a voice to people that their stories weren’t being heard.  She wanted to raise awareness on what was happening in the world, that people weren’t aware of. She was really going after her truth and endangering her own life to tell this truth. When we have a quest, a reason to go fearlessly after what we believe in, we find most times that there is a price to it all. She was aware of the price and toll it had on her, but still was willing to sacrifice herself for the bigger vision. The price she had to pay was also seen in her drinking problem, being away from London, and losing her life in Syria. Someone needed to tell these stories, but no one in their right mind and volunteers to be there with the refugees and risk their lives.Because of Marie and her photographer and other journalists, we get to know what is happening in the world. In this day and age when we are dealing with of the problem of honest reporting. What is real news and what is not real news. You get frustrated, I get frustrated as an Israeli with what the media chose to report and highlight. It is not always accurate and often one sided. The conflict in the middle east is so much bigger and deeper than that. Marie did such an amazing work in Syria in 2012, especially in Homs. I was fortunate to be a part of this film and help tell this story.

ATM: What is one recent thing that portrayed Israel in the wrong light?

LB: It happens pretty often. A few months ago, Israel was experiencing all these rockets and new techniques that terror organizations were using to hurt civilians. But a we both know, It is not right and wrong in war. There are just losers on both sides. Sometimes it feels that Israel is the only bad guy here.It is such a sensitive subject in general with everything that is going on with Israel. I always try to be very open to hear other opinions and be sensitive to both sides. Because both sides are suffering from it. This is why I started Women Creating Change as well. It all starts with us understanding and seeing each other as people first. without involving politics, money and power. The people are the ones that are hurting. We must find a solution in our lifetime. 

ATM: Do you feel like you are doing the same thing with risking your life with poetry like the main character? Risking regarding putting your most vulnerable moments out there for the world to see.

LB: Not close to what Marie did…but you can say this in a way. But I was not planning to do it for this reason. To me it felt that my words can help other people, and they should be shared with the world.  It was bigger than me. Marie might have felt that it was bigger than her. It did not make sense, but she had to do it. I can relate to that. We as artists do not try to save lives or do anything that risky like the work journalists do. I find that some of the time when sharing my poetry that people’s reactions are “I was just going through this horrible day. Thank you, made me feel better or made me see my life from a different point of view.” The reactions are powerful and help me understand the power of words. She was motivated by her honesty, truth, and justice. She wanted to shine light on issues that were hard and difficult and might not be interesting to people living on the other side of the world. But she believed people should know and be aware of what was happening. Because we all have a responsibly. We can’t ignore injustice.

ATM: In an analytical way, what beautifying elements did she see in these dangerous places as described in the trailer? To us they were dangerous, but to her, they might have resembled something else.

LB:She saw hurt, pain, people dying, and being attacked for now reason. What she saw in Syria was horrific. It was a government attacking their own people. They got trapped in a civil war with no way out. She wanted the world to see their fear and to be responsible. She saw pain. This might relate to the pain she felt as a person. She felt she could do more for other people than herself maybe. We would never know. She was willing to risk her own life to help other people.This is what was so admirable and special about her. She tried to change their realities and show their suffering and pain. And Rusamund Pike captures her essence and who she was in a brilliant and powerful way.

ATM: While watching many versions of the  trailer, what about the trailer later persuaded you to watch the movie?

LB: Hm. Good question. well I would watch the film anyhow, {laughs} even if I did not see the trailer. But for other people, I think It gives you a window to see who she is. The trailer is only two minutes. You are trying to shine a light and tell a story about a person. You see she was celebrated as a journalist. You see the different war zones and the special relationship she had with Jamie Dornan. They became very close. You see what she was going through. You see these crazy situations she put herself into. You see people getting beheaded and shot. You see the bombing; entire cities being erased. the cinematography in the film is brilliant. You see Homs, the city in Syria being empty, like a ghost town. The film captures the turbulence, emotional state of mind she was in; also, in her inner world. It captures what was going on inside her mind.

ATM: What does the initial film poster signify about her?

LB:I think it shows her strength. How bad ass she was. Her character. a strong woman that is not afraid. You can see she had a rough life. She does not look pretty. She is just who she is. She is the truth. This is the point of this movie and what it holds behind it. That the most powerful weapon is the truth.

ATM: Does the title Private War relate to an internal war with herself? I understand she experiences different war zones, but why is the word ‘private’ attached to war in the title?

LB: I can tell you my opinion about it. There were two worlds: the real world in which she was living in, and reporting about, and her private battle with alcoholism, and the ghosts haunting her from what she saw and had to experiences. She is drawn to these dark places. It was personal to her and her own war as a person that was going on inside of her.

ATM: How could the truth become a powerful weapon compared to a lie, which is often seen to get you further?

LB: The truth is the truth. You can pretend and ignore it like you are not aware of what is happening. She wanted to bring the truth in front of us, so we could not ignore it anymore. It was not about lying. It was about making people aware of what was happening. If we are talking about other issues now, in real life pertaining to honest reporting, then a lot of the times the news can become subjective rather than honest reporting. Documentaries are powerful but can also be subjective. It shows one point of view of the filmmaker.Sometimes we confuse reality, what is happening, with stories that we see, and we think this is the truth. It is important today to do your research. We need to get smarter these days and take responsibility for what we share and talk about. We sometimes share things that we think are correct. We find out that it is not always correct. I am also probably to blame for this. We need to take more responsibility on the things we share on social media and make sure it is accurate.

ATM: Because we see her internal and external  struggles, do you think the meaning of the word Private in the title is less private to the audience?

LB:No, I think it is still private. It is being on display and can be under judgment. It does not change the experience of the person. It is still her life and what she went through. It does not change her experience. When an experience is shared, the experience does not change, in my opinion.

ATM: While being in the midst of the creativity in the film, what did you experience about the emotional affects a journalist goes through if they give their profession 100%?

LB: It depends. She was really putting herself on the line thinking she could die at any time. Living on the edge. This was a very challenging situation. It is hard to stay healthy in your mindset when you are going through this on a constant basis. She was traveling throughout Syria and other countries. You see in the movie that she had nightmares. Drinking became a way for her to deal with life. We all have ways to try to deal with life and do things to help us cope. For her, it was drinking, also sex. It is hard when you are at war, a year after a year. This is why her work should be celebrated.  

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