‘Ingrid’ Is Unlikely Pairing of Jewish Filmmaker and Nazi’s Daughter

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Ingrid Gipson, the subject of Morissa Maltz’s documentary. (Provided)

This Sunday, the Parkway Theatre will host a 4 p.m. screening of Morissa Maltz’s “Ingrid,” Maltz’s critically acclaimed documentary about the life of Ingrid Gipson, a Dallas-based fashion designer who left everything behind to live in the backwoods of Oklahoma. It’s a humane, measured look at a woman who, it seems, wanted to live deliberately, sustained by art and nature alone.

Maltz, the granddaughter of former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel, will be available for a Q&A following the film, but in the meantime, the JT caught up with her for a chat.


How did this film come about?

I started making things after my father passed away in high school and haven’t stopped since. As an adult, I started to make a living (albeit a very modest one) from my work. I started to lose that whatever that was that you start off with — that feeling of needing to make things. I was yearning to find that again.

So I started looking in the corners of the internet and going through newspaper  articles and trying to look for people that made things for no money or fame or anything like that, just to pick their brains and figure out why they liked making things. I met quite a few people in a variety of states — New Jersey, Montana, California, Texas — and while I was in Dallas with another subject the girl I was staying with at my Airbnb told me about Ingrid Gipson. She was like, “Oh my god, my colleague knows this woman who used to live in Dallas, and is an artist in the woods!” So I drove out and met Ingrid and there was this immediate connection.

When did you learn Ingrid’s father had fought for the Nazis?

I actually don’t remember the exact moment I realized that her father was a Nazi but what I do remember is early on in my research I was talking to a close friend and excitedly telling her all of these things about Ingrid and then after all that she took a second and was like, “Wait, so there is this Nazi’s daughter living out in the woods, and you, a Jewish artist and filmmaker, are working with her? And she has removed herself from  society? That’s fascinating.”

I was concentrating so hard on the artistic elements that I had initially gone out there to investigate, I hadn’t really processed how crazy our relationship was.

This also shows how time heals. My grandmother tells me her brothers wouldn’t even buy a German car. I, on the other hand, never saw any of that first-hand and I’m sure that changes my reaction to meeting someone who had Nazi parents. I think a huge reason of why she wanted to trust me was because of her sincere hatred for her parents and what they stood for. I think she wanted to love a Jewish person as much as her parents hated them. I think her opening up about all of it and opening up her life wouldn’t have happened if I wasn’t Jewish. I think there was a sense of guilt she also had that she could finally talk about and let go of.

How did Judaism inform the making of this movie?

My Jewish background has a lot to do with my approach to these type of projects and why/how I make them. In Ingrid’s story, as well as with my current project, there’s a certain type of heart and openness that one needs to gain people’s trust (and do it with all sincerity) that I think specifically comes from my Jewish upbringing. It’s also a certain care to make life and the world better.

When I finally showed  Ingrid the movie, I stayed over and we had breakfast the next morning and she turned around to me and said, “You know, Morrisa, you’re really an example of your people — you’re the only kind of person that could have done this,” and I asked what she meant and she said because I’m Jewish, I was a true example of the heart and openness that Jews are known for and that’s what made the process doable  for her, and that I should be proud of that. I left and  immediately called my mom and grandma and was like, “OMG can you believe a Nazi daughter just said that to me?”

Lastly, with this movie and all my projects — I love life, I want to live a good life while I’m here. I want to learn as much as I can and be adventurous and make as many things as I can. My life is about living it to the fullest and I think this is also a very Jewish sentiment I was raised with. That’s part of why I take on such ambitious projects.

What do you want the audience to take away from this?

I wanted the audience to be able to meditate on their own choices and purpose in life. I think it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life and forget that we have choices we can make for ourselves — we can create the life we want and imagine a life outside of what society may prescribe. I want this aspect of the film to be a source of conversation — to think about why we do the things we do and make the choices we make, and make sure we are leading a life true to who we are.

jbernstein@midatlanticmedia.com

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