Photographer Halsman focus of project

The murder trial of celebrity photographer Philippe Halsman, whose photos regularly graced the covers of Life magazine from the 1940s through the ’70s, is the focus of Lilly Berger’s first produced film, “Jump,” which premiered at the EFM Wednesday.

Helmed and written by Austrian-based Joshua Sinclair and starring Patrick Swayze and Ben Silverstone, the pic is the first-ever privately financed English-language Austrian production.

Set in 1928 Austria during the rise of fascism, “Jump” recounts the mysterious death of Halsman’s father while on a hiking trip in the Alps with his son, and the arrest of the Latvian-born Halsman (played by Silverstone) for the crime.

As a Jew and outsider, Halsman faced anti-Semitic hostility and was found guilty of murder and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Swayze plays Halsman’s defense attorney.

“He was the first victim of anti-Semitism of the growing National Socialists movement,” Berger said.

Halsman was eventually released after Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Thomas Mann rallied to his cause. He was granted a pardon and freed on the condition that he never return to Austria, but remained forever stigmatized. Halsman eventually moved to New York, where his iconic photos of famous personalities — often jumping or in mid-air — sealed his fame.

Halsman has more Life covers to his credit than any other photographer.

“This film tries to present a definitive account of what happened. I hope it helps to rehabilitate Philippe Halsman’s name once and for all,” said Berger, who once worked for former media tycoon Leo Kirch.

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