September 2004 : Meeting Mark for the first time Part 2

 

THIRD  BLOG IN THE SERIES

On October 28 2016  my film EYE FOR AN EYE  the story of my relationship with serial Killer Mark Stroman  ( who was executed in 2011) is finally arriving on the big screen.  The film ,released  in several cities in the US and Canada  tells the amazing  story of Revenge, Change and forgiveness . It is a film that carries such a poignant message in the times of hate, division ,Islamophobia  that live in. In the coming weeks  I will publish a series  of blogs detailing  the history of my relationship with Mark , the first serial killer I met and over the years grew to call  my friend.

To learn more about the film and news about the upcoming release  please go to our Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/aneyeforaneye.film/

Mark Stroman2

“I like your barber.” Those were Mark’s first words to me after he entered the interview booth.

Death Row prisoners are never allowed to be left un-cuffed unless they are in a locked cell. They travel inside prison escorted by two armed guards.

There is a ritual. The prisoner is led handcuffed into the small interview booth. The door is locked. He then extends his hands through a slit in the metal door and the guard removes his shackles.  It was then that Mark turned to me and “complimented” my barber. We both laughed since both Mark and I had bald shaved heads. Yet his comment threw me off. After all these weeks of anticipation, Mark was not whom I had expected. Yes, his outward appearance conformed with that of a “skin head” or “white supremacist” – bald shaved head and body covered in tattoos. Yet his manner and warm eyes told a different story.

Nothing in his letter consenting to the interview had prepared me for that. It was a formal letter:

July 28th, 2004

Texas Death Camp

God Bless America!

Greetings and respect! 

So I hear through the grape vine you are still doing the ole documentary. Since we last spoke a lot has happened. The appeal I fear has been denied. Some hot shot attorney told me I had 24-32 months till my execution. I have a few requests that I ‘d like to make and I know are within your power to grant me. My terms for an all-out interview are as follow:

  1. One full year subscription to the Dallas Morning News. I ‘d love to see home town news before my death.
  2. A donation of $200 for a typewriter and all the needed ribbons so I can write a short book before my death.

I fulfilled the conditions and now I was sitting across the glass from him, ready for the “all-out interview.” However, his joke about my “hair style” had put me off my well-prepared interview. I worked hard preparing for the interview and now I had forgotten my planned opening question! I improvised:

How do you feel locked up for 23 hours in a cell. What do you do for the 23 hours?”

Now it was his turn to be surprised. He told me years later that he was sure I would ask him what everyone else did: “Why did you do it?” The personal nature of my question threw him off. No one had ever asked him that. His eyes teared up as he told me about the hours he spent thinking about his life and what had happened and about the nightmares he had. Somehow, without knowing it, the question opened a flood gate of emotions, crying and ramblings. I felt sympathetic, but I also thought that I had lost the first, and what I was sure would be my only chance at an interview. It would be impossible to edit this rambling interview, jumping from subject to subject, and the prison would be reluctant to give me a second chance. They rarely do, since they deal primarily with news interviews.

What I did not realize at the time was that although I might “lose the interview” (I was of course proven wrong), I had gained Mark’s trust. More importantly, I gained a unique insight into a man who was already seized with doubts about what he had done. I did not realize at the time that Mark was losing faith in the narrative he had built to explain his murder spree to himself. Of course, he talked about September 11th and the need he felt to seek revenge, but you could tell he had lost the zeal with which he had defended it when he was interviewed in the County Jail soon after his arrest and later during his trial. Only years later would I realize how horribly confusing it must have been to be left with two dead men and destroyed families (including his own) on his conscience and no longer have a reason. It was way deeper than remorse. Mark was “existentially” confused.

It took me a long time to analyze and understand all of this, but at the end of the interview I was already intrigued. Mark was not whom I thought he was. Who was he? Why did he explode in such a murderous way? I had no idea, but I was intrigued enough to accept when he asked for a second chance realizing that he was rambling and incoherent during the interview. I immediately said yes, I would come again. That would give me the second chance, I thought, to conduct a more organized interview.

Little did I know that it would be that second interview that would change both our lives and our relationship forever!

To be continued…

 

 

September 2004 : Meeting Mark for the first time

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SECOND BLOG IN THE SERIES

On October 28 2016  my film EYE FOR AN EYE  the story of my relationship with serial Killer Mark Stroman  ( who was executed in 2011) is finally arriving on the big screen.  The film ,released  in several cities in the US and Canada  tells the amazing  story of Revenge, Change and forgiveness . It is a film that carries such a poignant message in the times of hate, division ,Islamophobia  that live in. In the coming weeks  I will publish a series  of blogs detailing  the history of my relationship with Mark , the first serial killer I met and over the years grew to call  my friend.

To learn more about the film and news about the upcoming release  please go to our Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/aneyeforaneye.film/

Mark Stroman2

I have just arrived at the gates. Media Day is Wednesday and I waited with two print journalists at the gates of the Allan B. Polunksy Unit just outside of Livingston, Texas – population 5335.

The instructions were very clear in the attachment to the email I got from the Media Department of TDCJ : Shorts/cutoffs, open -toed shoes, tank tops , t-shirts , fishnet shirts, see through fabrics …are forbidden, Men  must wear long pants…Nothing may be  given or taken from an offender by the media.

I drove on a country road passing some trailer homes and what looked like a dilapidated evangelical church. Suddenly, out of the woods emerged the prison complex surrounded by barbed wire fences. It wasn’t until years later I figured out where Mark’s pod on Death Row was: a concrete complex of buildings with tiny narrow windows like eye slits.

I go through all these tiny details because the fact that I recall them almost 12 years later is evidence of how tense I was – paying attention to each detail – now engraved in my memory forever.

It was the first time I had interviewed anyone on Death Row. After visiting Mark’s victims, I imagined Mark Stroman as a monster – a cold, calculated, racist, serial killer.

We drove over 2 hours from Houston’s airport. A road I would come to know well in the next few years. The cameraman was driving as I was consumed with self-doubt. Why the hell did I need to interview Mark Stroman – a man who had destroyed so many lives?

A few months earlier, I had spent a week or so interviewing Mark’s victims, trying to figure out if the story of Texas’ first hate crime following 9/11 was strong enough to build an entire film around. I’d promised myself that I would review all the footage and see if I felt like exploring deeper.

On a previous trip to Dallas, just before catching a late night flight to NY, I had met Alka Patel and that interview not only changed my thinking about this story, it changed my life by leading me to the gates of Polunksy Unit, and to Mark Stroman. Alka’s husband Vadusev Patel was Mark’s second victim.

It was Vadusev’s murder that put Mark on Death Row. In the security camera’s tape that was retrieved from the scene of the crime (a gas station and a convenient store in Dallas), you can see Mark Stroman storming into the store, shooting Mr. Patel while asking him to open the cash register. The irony, of course, is that Mark shot Mr. Patel while asking him for the money. Patel was unable to open any cash register, but it was enough for the Jury to convict him of Capital Murder – a murder committed in the commission of another crime. Murder alone does not qualify for the Death Penalty. Capital Murder does. It was Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis decision not to charge Mark for his earlier attacks, where money was not taken, but instead used the security camera tape to convince the Jury that Mark did not act out of hate, but out of pure greed – it was just another robbery gone wrong.

I spent couple of hours in Alka ‘s store waiting for her to take few minutes break so I could ask her few questions. Since her husband’s death, Alka has been working from 6am until 10 pm seven days a week with only the help of her parents who had travelled from India to be with her. Her only break was in the afternoon picking up her kids from school.

What do you think of the man who did this to you?” I asked, “do you hate him?” With tears in her eyes she revealed that she could not hate him. “He is a human too,” she said.

I was stunned. I did not expect this answer and her pained look convinced me that she had thought it through before I came. No, she could not muster the hate inside.

Right there in that tiny convenient store I decided that the film ought to look at hate and forgiveness – and yes, I was going to pursue it. But to tell that story I needed to hear Mark’s side. Where was his hate coming from?

I wrote to him but he declined to be interviewed, because he said he was in the process of an appeal.

I thought my film was over before it began. How could I make a film about hate and forgiveness without Mark Stroman.

Six months later, he wrote again and it was that letter that brought me this grey morning in 2004 to the gates of Polunksy Unit waiting with two other local reporters for the TDJC ‘s spokesperson to come and escort us into the bowels of the prison where I assumed Mark Stroman was waiting.

To be continued…

 

September 11th, 2001 ….or my first contact with Mark, long before we met.

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On October 28 2016  my film EYE FOR AN EYE  the story of my relationship with serial Killer Mark Stroman  ( who was executed in 2011) is finally arriving on the big screen.  The film ,released  in several cities in the US and Canada  tells the amazing  story of Revenge, Change and forgiveness . It is a film that carries such a poignant message in the times of hate, division ,Islamophobia  that live in. In the coming weeks  I will publish a series  of blogs detailing  the history of my relationship with Mark , the first serial killer I met and over the years grew to call  my friend.

To learn more about the film and news about the upcoming release  please go to our Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/aneyeforaneye.film/

Mark Stroman2

“How are you Ilan?” The voice sounded faint and far away. The connection was full of static. It was my mother calling from Israel. “I tried you on your cell, but the lines are busy.” “Yes,” I told her, “the cell lines are crushed.” It was September 11th, 2001, she just watched the collapse of the two World Trade Center towers on TV in Israel. I tried to explain to her that I watched them too…sort of. If anyone could have understood my bizarre behavior that morning, I thought, she could.

I was in my office on 20th Street “pretending” to work. We had two productions going and lots to do. All my colleagues and employees were on the roof paralyzed by shock watching the burning towers. But without realizing, I reverted to an old Israeli survival mechanism in times of emergency: pretending that life is normal not letting anything interrupt my routine. On that day I perfected that old “trick” to the absurd. For a few minutes, I watched the first tower in flames and then went downstairs to “work” thus missing the sight of the second plane hitting. Screams of “Oh my God” and the noise of people in the stairways lured me back to the roof, gazing at the two burning towers. Then, again after few minutes, I went to the office, trying to concentrate on working. Yelling, screaming and the sound of feet in the stair ways lured me to the roof yet again. By then I already missed the collapse of the first tower and later the collapse of the second tower. My mother’s call put an end to this silly routine.

“Are Alice and the kids safe?” she asked. “Yes,” I told her. My kids went  to school uptown and were already at home and so was Alice, my wife. She too used to work uptown. As I recounted what had happened to my mother, thousands of miles away, I realized how I had essentially missed seeing all the key moments of the event. Then I saw from the window of our empty office (everyone but me was on the roof) a sight I have never seen before in NY.

From my office window you could see the Empire State Building and suddenly I saw two roaring F16 combat jets flying low over the Empire State building disappearing into the sky, only to return few minutes later as if encircling the building.

It is a sight I remember very well as a child and young adult in Israel. Long before the announcement of the breakout of a war or hostilities, we could watch combat fighter planes flying over Tel Aviv towards the North or the South of the country. They were on a combat mission and their roaring engines, shook our windows rattling our nerves, and caused car alarms to get off.

“It is like in Israel,” I said to my mom after the planes had disappeared. I suddenly realized the meaning of the moment. I left Israel after the 1973 October War, tired of fighting, conflict and violence, seeking the relative peace of NY. Now the Middle East came chasing after me in my new “Safe Haven.” The audacity of the attack, and the fighter planes over my office building, told me that a new war had just begun. The hate that was expressed by the hijackers trying to cause as many civilian deaths as possible was too profound, the attack too cold blooded, not to trigger something much bigger. For me, more than the collapse of the towers, it was the two lone F16 planes roaring over my office that signaled that something ominous was in the making.

As my mind was racing to digest and seek meaning in this act of meaningless mass murder the line went dead and my mother’s voice disappeared.

It was this search for the meaning from this event and its impact that led me three years later to the Polunsky Death Row unit, sitting across the glass from a murderer… a serial killer. He too claimed that September 11 had thrown his world apart. He too was taken aback by the “statement of hate” of the hijackers and by the audacity of their attack that he called “revenge killing.”

It took close to two hours to walk the seventy odd blocks separating my office from my house. Years later I recalled this walk to Mark Stroman during my prison visit. He begged me to describe to him “my” September 11th in New York after talking so much about “his” September 11th in Dallas, Texas.

I described the eerie sight of seeing hundreds of thousands of people packing the sidewalks and the roads. All public transportation was shut down. I told him about the sight of hundreds of exhausted businessmen in suits near Pen Station sitting and lying on the sidewalks. They could not make it home to the suburbs that night. All commuter trains were shut down. Resigned to their fate, they were just sitting, leaning against their bags and suitcases. “It sounds like Hollywood disaster movie,” Mark commented. Indeed, it seemed like one. Life as we knew it ceased to exit.

Mark Stroman told me that he too felt the “apocalypse” approaching. In some mysterious ways, I felt we were connecting by the memory of what, at the time, was an unexplained threat.

Yet, while I responded by seeking the company of friends and family, all coming together seeking solace by being together, Mark went home alone, drunk and high on drugs, seized by rage and dreams of vengeance.

The murders that he committed in the days after September 11th would bring us together, sitting across the dividing glass, in the interview room. Yet it was the memory of September 11th, and of Israel and the wars I fought (my own killings) that would help to transform this professional relationship of a journalist filmmaker and an interviewee into something far deeper than I could ever have imagined, changing in the process his life and mine. Though I met Mark for the first time in the late fall of 2004, unknown to both of us we were introduced on September 11th, 2001.

CAPITALISM HAS FINALLY ARRIVED IN THE US…. I mean the series!

CAPiTALISM HAS  FINALLY ARRIVED   IN THE US … I mean the series.!

The Series  that  Le Monde described as a “A captivating epic… a major contribution to economic and social reflection”, which was hailed by critics in France  Israel  and has just been released in Chinese is now  available in the US  and soon in Canada.

Visit  our site and watch for  the coming screenings!

CAPITALISM

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AN EYE FOR AN EYE

Mark Stroman

Yesterday we finally locked picture on my new film Eye  For An Eye. More than 11 years ago I went to Dallas for the first time, drawn by Mark Stroman’s  “manifesto” of Hate  in which he explained his motivation  for the killing of   2 people and wounding one , part of his murderous campaign  of revenge  against people from the Middle East . It was  a revenge ,he claimed, for 9/11  terror attack.

It is an amazing journey  that began with Mark’s victims and ended  up as I witnessed his execution. It was an  intensely personal  journey for me to watch hate  turned into forgiveness and  how   a victim and his attacker were coming together in the last weeks of Mark’s life.

The result is a 2 hours feature length documentary that will be released this fall. The first part of the journey is over!

State tuned!

Alka Patel, the widow of Makr's other victim

Alka Patel.  The widow of Mark Stroman 3rd victim

AN EYE  FOR AN  EYE

A FILM BY ILAN ZIV 

A TAMOUZ MEDIA PRODUCTION

On April 5, 2002, Mark  Anthony Stroman, a 32-year-old stonecutter from Dallas, entered Texas’ death row for the murder of Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant and gas station owner in Mesquite, TX. Patel was Strroman’s third and final victim. In the three weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks, Stroman also shot and killed Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant in Dallas, and partially blinded a gas station attendant from Bangladesh, in the erroneous belief that all three men were Arabs. The press labeled the murders, Texas’ first post 9/11 hate crimes. Stroman himself claimed that “blinded by rage,” he killed to avenge the United States. The prosecution convinced the jury that robbery was his true motive, (even though he hadn’t taken money from his victims), and he was sentenced to death.

Nida Hassan, The daughter of Mark's first victim

Nida  Hassan, the daughter of Mark Stroman’s first victim

What drove Stroman to commit these horrendous acts? This question has haunted me and set me on a seven years journey investigating Mark’s Life, his crimes, his trial and the psychology of Hate. Through his letters, interviews conducted in jail, and his blogs I followed his life and his transformation on Death Row. Together they form the film ‘s first part : Revenge .
8 years after the shooting, an Islamic pilgrimage seeds in Rais Bhuiyan, Mark’s only surviving victim, a desire to forgive Mark and fights to spare his life. He had a “strange” idea: if he is ever to be whole, he must reenter Stroman’s life. He longed to confront Stroman and speak to him face to face about the attack that changed their lives. Mark asked for forgiveness from his victims and Bhuiyan publicly forgave him, in the name of his religion and its notion of mercy. Then two months before Mark’s execution, Rais waged a legal and public relations campaign against the State of Texas and Governor Rick Perry, to have his attacker spared from the death penalty. The legal battle continued until literally minutes from Mark’s execution.

 

The second part of AN EYE FOR AN EYE follows this amazing story of Forgiveness, Mark’s transformation, and Rais’s campaign to save his life. With unique access the film documents Mark ‘s last days and hours, as together with 4 other friends of Mark I witnessed his execution.

An Eye for An Eye is a a personal story and a powerful and riveting drama about Hate, Revenge and forgiveness in a world consumed by growing religious and ethnic violence.

The film will be released in the fall.

 

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Rais  Bahuiyan, Mark’s second victim

 

The film and the book “True American” ( which details my work and relationship with Mark) are the sources for Katrhyn Bigelow’s ( Hurt Locker, and, Zero Dark Thirty) new film on the same story.

I am a consultant on the Feature and one of its Co Producers.

Mark Stroman2

CAPITALISM

Released this fall in Canada  and  in the United States …details soon

Ep6 Press10

In the early days of the system, that came to be known as Capitalism, political economists of all stripes struggled to understand the laws that govern the flow of capital – and of Capitalism’s related activities. As a result, a critical assessment and sketchy understanding of how Capitalism worked began to emerge. But in recent times, as the system, and the world, has grown a hundredfold more complex we have veered away from the pursuit of any clear, critical understanding of the phenomenon. Economic departments in most major universities in the English-speaking world have abolished courses in the history of Economic and political economy. We are left with incomprehensible mathematical models whose relevance to the real world is hotly disputed.

We were told very little about Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Thomas Malthus yet their names have been used to give legitimacy to contemporary economic activities.
To further obscure the issues, this « econo speak » has been supplemented by endless superficial news reports, pundits discussions and analysis filled with clichés and superficial information.

Our series intends to puncture this veil of opacity to go beyond the current « econo- speak » to re examine the ideas which have been used in the past 40 to reshape the world.

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Is today’s economic crisis a temporary blimp on the road to progress or a symptom of a deeper crisis of the system as a whole?
Can the big ideas of the at the heart of our Economic system help us understand today’s economic crisis, or obscure it?
And more importantly – can they show us a way out?

THE SERIES 

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Our series examines Capitalism’ “DNA”. Each chapter is devoted to key ideas, which have shaped the system and key thinkers who authored them.

Ours is not a history lesson but a contemporary investigation. Key ideas and concepts are being illustrated and examined strictly in their contemporary reality.

The investigation is being led by our story tellers; key thinkers and scholars who help to explore the relevance of key ideas and key thinkers in Capitalism and their relevance to the understanding of today’s reality. We have assembled an int’l list of scholars. Their interviews are being combined with filming in over 22 countries, illustrating key ideas by examining their contemporary reality.

The result is six riveting cinematic essays a comprehensive look behind today’s headlines and a sorely missed context to what seems to be an endless torrent of distressing and incomprehensible news reports and pundit discussions.

Zadig Productions (France), Megafun Productions (Canada), ARTE ( France/Germany) T.A.M.I. Media (Israel)

Producers: Bruno Nahon, Paul Cadieux and Ilan Ziv

Director : Ilan Ziv

Trailer

FROM THE PRESS:

“With the series Capitalism, Ilan Ziv created a captivating epic that helps us to understand today’s crisis and the inequalities…a series that without doubt becomes a major contribution to economic and social reflection.”

Le monde

 “The ambition is huge but Ilan Ziv, the director, succeeds to bring clarity to confusion makes complexities accessible and produces a clear narrative of a system that seems opaque to most people”

Journal du Dimanche

That  which sometimes seems dulls ,  becomes here  passionate as in a breathless investigation.”

“An editorial act  which is both powerful and rare  the series Capitalism directed by Ilan Ziv  demonstrate the power of television and its capacity  of being  means through which  the world of ideas can become an actor in public debate.”

Head of Arte editorial department.

 ” Six episodes of a masterly documentary series, which  is going to revolutionize our vision  of the economic world.”

La Vie

“Turn on your television sets, forget all the other programs and plunge into Capitalism , the documentary series.”

Nouvelle Ob

 “There are moments of television that should not be missed. This six-part series from director Ilan Ziv on the long history of capitalism – four years of work. Building on several key authors who have tried to think, from Adam Smith to David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Friedrich Hayek, John Maynard Keynes but also Karl Polanyi, each episode combines a highly educational explanations of concepts, economic history and contemporary life, to give a series of documentaries under an hour each of which it is difficult to stop watching !”

Alternatives Economiques

“First lets me help to remove any mental block you might have from watching this series. When you hear about a series on Capitalism you can suspect another neo marxist silliness or some new age rant… this is a truly captivating series that delves into history, philosophy, investigates four corners of the planet and try to stimulate the viewer with reexamination of the basic concepts that define our lives… so whether you are free tonight or not please do yourselves a favor and do not miss this series. ( he gave the series a 10 out 10 mark)

Globes ( Israel economic daily)

The series was chosen as one of the ten best programs in France in 2014

 

Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’ former  finance minster explains the true meaning of “bailout”

 

 

SYRIZA’S VICTORY IN GREECE BRINGS THE ISSUES DISCUSSED IN OUR SERIES CAPITALISM TO THE HEART OF THE DEBATE IN EUROPE

The first of a series of statements  by Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s new Finance minister, that I intend to  post in the coming weeks.  Yanis is one of  23 major economists, historians  sociologists  and anthropologists interviewed in our  ground breaking series on Capitalism.  The series , to which   Le Monde ( France’s leading newspaper)  dedicated a a full page claiming that is “bound to become a major contribution to our economic and social debate“,  deals extensively with the issues of Debt and Austerity. The series  tries, with the help of Economists like Yanis , to puncture the dominant myths that have shaped our societies and our political discourse  since the financial crush for 2008. Yanis Varoufakis and the Syriza’s government is now taking these issues into the heart of Europe . I will post continuously as the real drama begins.
CAPITALISM  is  being distributed internationally, after its premiere in France,  and will be launched in the US in early Spring.
To continue follow the  spread of  “Capitalism”  , and receive  notices  as the count down for the US launch begins, please  follow us !

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