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By Cassandra Braun
"Human Remains," which features old footage of modern history's most notorious dictators -- including Hitler and Stalin -- doing banal, everyday tasks has been in regular circulation on the Independent Film Channel. And his most recent work, a warmhearted ode to fatherhood titled "I Used to Be a Filmmaker," will air on Cinemax on Father's Day. Still, Rosenblatt isn't exactly a marquee name. When you create edgy films that are shorter than the average TV sitcom, you're not likely to make People or Variety. But then, making commercially viable, feature-length films was never his aim.
Rosenblatt trained as a psychologist, falling into filmmaking only when he took a Super-8 film production class on a whim. Later, attending the MFA film program at San Francisco State, it became clear to the Brooklyn native that filmmaking was a calling that satisfied a deep need for expression. "I just fell in love with it," says Rosenblatt. "I really made a commitment that regardless of what I did, I would continue to make films." As it turned out, the short film format best suited his experimental style and intense themes. "There are some writers who just write short stories; not all writers write novels. So it's kind of similar in a sense." As a result, his movies -- like "The Smell of Burning Ants," which looks at male socialization and boyhood cruelty -- explore social and emotional issues without the standard character study or story arc of feature films. And that means finding an audience is a challenge. "I want as many people to see my work as possible, but I'm not willing to dumb down the work just so that large numbers see it," he says. Rosenblatt hasn't ruled out a feature-length film project in the future, although it's not likely to be anything close to a Hollywood blockbuster. And there's always the funding issue. Aside from a smattering of grant money and the occasional sale of a film to a cable outlet, Rosenblatt doesn't make a living with his movies. Film may be his art, but teaching is his bread-and-butter. As long as he's been making movies, he has taught the craft at local universities including S.F. State, Stanford and currently, the San Francisco Art Institute. Filmmaking must be crammed into weekends, school breaks or spare time not already devoted to his 3-year-old daughter, Ella. Still, Rosenblatt has no intention of quitting. "I think art is one of the greatest things about being human. To me, that's one of the reasons to live."
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