What are memories? What does the past mean? What value does it bring to our daily life? Why restoring old architectural buildings is important to retain history? Aaron Wolf’s “Restoring Tomorrow” is more than just religion, value, and even bigger than the life of one individual. Temples, churches, mosques or even old buildings carry a century old story one written book may not be enough to deliver the complete picture.
The documentary playing in Toronto right now captures divided times, religious institutions and why now, like never before, we must be united in the face of a dangerous pattern that leads to places like temples closing its doors for the tomorrow’s generation to not have it anymore.
During my interview with the writer/director Aaron Wolf, it appears that making this movie for him was more personal than we could imagine. That’s why reading or learning his insight to it sheds more light on “Restoring Tomorrow” like never before.
MOVIEMOVESME: At what point did you conclude that you wanted to make a documentary about the Wilshire Boulevard Temple?
Aaron Wolf: Yeah, so how I actually came to the conclusion was an interesting story. I was supposed to get married. I was engaged and about a month before the engage, the wedding, the engagement got called off. All my family was going to come and everything and it called off. And at the time it seemed depressing and sad and I was all like, bummed out and then about six months later I met with Rabbi Steve Leder, who I you see in the film.
He did not feel sorry for me, he said: “You know, it’s a bump in the road, I think it’ll be a good thing and I want you to start, you’re a filmmaker, you’re an actor, director, you have a production company. Can you start making a couple little segments that we can use to show the city? And show the community about what we’re doing.” I said: “Sure”.
I was looking for to find something bigger because I had lost something that I thought my life was going in one direction. And about six months in I realized, wait, there is a bigger story here. And I might be serving as a microcosm for any younger person who has lost their way with their place that matters? And their community and I was reconnecting to it, as the place was reconnecting to the community because it was, they were saving it.
And I thought, wow, this is, this is interesting. It’s just fascinating. What’s going on? I was learning more about my family, my grandfather was a rabbi. So I was learning more about him. So it became like this self discovery.
MOVIEMOVESME: I am a person who always believes there’s reason behind things that happen. Do you think if that wouldn’t have happened in your life, would you have done what you have right now, in terms of the documentary that you made? Because there’s something you said in the documentary, in the movie, that this story is bigger than my life. Do you think you would be here if the engagement would’ve proceed and there were no issues? And then, and then everyone lives happily ever after, while the legacy, the past is forgotten?
Aaron Wolf: It’s actually a good question, and I think it taught me a big lesson that I maybe can share for others is those bumps in the road I’ve learned, and since then other bumps have happened, and every time a bump happens I actually realize it’s an amazing lesson.
And we are only as big as the bumps that we overcome. And this was one of those and without this, it was a blessing. It was a bullet that I dodged in a way, like a not a literal bullet, but it was a blessing that I didn’t realize was a blessing at the time about not getting married. That was not meant to be, it was, now is allowing me, and I am so grateful to be able to share this message and this film with other people and non of this would have happened. My life would be so different, if I had gotten married. So it’s a good metaphor for life that it’s not, life isn’t, is the movie. So, you have to take the different things as they come and then take advantage when, when different things don’t seem lucky but they’re actually lucky.
MOVIEMOVESME: Let’s say, when we are happy we don’t care about religion. We don’t care about anything else other than the money that comes our way, the success, the happiness and everything. And once we start losing something in our life, a loved one, a job, or anything that brings us value, we start looking for reasons that brings us to God, to the realization that a temple exists or Church, Mosques. We find our faith and God so to ask for help. Why we never get to this point before when we are happier? As you were going through the filming process, did you ever find yourself thinking about that?
Aaron Wolf: Yeah and I think it’s a good metaphor for that. When we’re happy we take it for granted. We take it for granted. Oh everything is going well. When things don’t go well, it’s then actually when we, the real blessings happen because we’re able to realize that there are other opportunities.
So, in this case, yeah, the temple because of this, the temple became this thing that was more important than I realized. I’d been complacent, I was guilty. I’d been complacent of something that really is incredibly important and I think, these communities, when we, like right now, some people are fighting so much as you know and like politics and on the news and stuff. And when we rise above that, when we find these bigger things, that’s where our true happiness can come from because we’re engaging with other people and, or helping other people, we’re doing good to the community and that’s what places like this offer.
When you come down to it, don’t you think it’s a, these places are so important. They’re like the centers of the community. And when they go away, we lose that center of community.
And I’m so glad that this story is now out there, because I think anyone who sees it will see that wow there is, maybe I can go and get connected to my place again. Maybe I can go and call someone and say, “Why don’t we go back? Why don’t we see what’s going on there because this is where we do do good.” This is where good does happen. This is where the noise, all the noise that’s happening on the news goes away because we’re doing something better and bigger.
MOVIEMOVESME: How about the process of the filming. How long did it take? Or maybe there were challenges you had to face or at some point you said, “I don’t have to do it,” and then you said, “I have to do it”. How was it?
Aaron Wolf: There were a lot of challenges. It was, it was so much footage. Try to find that, that true story. I wanted it to be as truthful as possible to what was really going on. Most for myself, cause you follow my journey, but it’s not my journey. I just, you see me go through it, so I’m like the lens and you see what’s happening to me and I think I represent what could happen to anyone.
And the filming took years. It was like three years, I think until, from beginning to end. Making this. Going through this process. Cause it wasn’t just, oh, we’re going to film a movie. It was, we’re going through a process and what was happening in the beginning was not what I was expecting at the end, if that makes sense, alright? I didn’t. And at the end of the movie what you see is, I don’t want to give it away, but it surprised me and I think it’ll surprise people who go see the movie because it’s playing in Toronto right now, at the Cineplex because it’s a, I think you’ll be surprised when you see it at the end, cause I was. It was a journey I went through and then you get to go through it but in an hour and twenty minutes, instead of three years.
MOVIEMOVESME: The score chosen for “Restoring Tomorrow” seems to speak for itself?
Aaron Wolf: Yeah, so the music. I think music in films is so important, because music is one of those driving forces in our lives. It’s something that is just, and in film it’s storytelling. It’s a big piece of the storytelling. And so in this case in the movie, I think you build, with music you build, you build to a crescendo and I think we do that.
And Connor Jones the composer in the movie, for the movie, I think he does a great job, and we worked really hard together, to make sure that the different pieces of the music key up at a different point so that, as you said, it’s simple, but it’s also beautiful, I think.
And then there’s a nice song at the end that I don’t want to give away, but it, I think it’s so fitting for what is going on in the world now, what’s going on in communities and what we could use, we could use little bit more of. So between the songs we hit the right notes. If you, that’s a good, a good way to say it, we hit the right notes.
MOVIEMOVESME: So, what is the definition of Restoring Tomorrow for you. Why choosing this title was so important to define your movie?
Aaron Wolf: Yeah, I came up with that title in my parents living room. And it was a funny, a funny thing. I was sitting there thinking, like what should we call this movie? What’s the answer, what’s the, what is the title? And I at first said so we’re going kind of back, but to the future. And then I said wait that title been taken and then I said okay, so it were restoring, but we’re not restoring for the past.
This isn’t something that’s going to be a museum piece. We’re restoring for the future so that people can experience this for years to come, for decades to come. So, we’re restoring for tomorrow. Because when you restore something, it’s important to the culture you’re not, to me, you’re just, it’s beautiful because you’re taking the past and then making it better for the future.
So you’re taking all those years of memories and then letting people experience them in the future and it’s a pretty rare thing. So that’s why I thought, Restoring Tomorrow, because then I think anyone can go and restore their tomorrow, if they put their mind to it. Don’t you think?