Judith Montell (1930-2020)

August 27, 2020

Judith Montell, prize-winning documentary filmmaker and long-time member of the ALBA Board of Governors, passed away on May 23 after a long illness.

Her best-known film was surely Forever Activists: Stories of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1991. She also directed shorter films dealing with the Lincoln veterans, including The Return of the Brigade, which focused on the 1996 reunions in Spain, as well as documentary footage of the dedication of the national monument to the Lincoln Brigade in San Francisco in 2008.

Her other work includes A Home on the Range, about the Jewish Petaluma community of chicken farmers in northern California, and a favorite at the SF Jewish Film Festival. Her last film, In the Image: Palestinian Women Capture the Occupation (2014) was made when Judy was 83. It was inspired by the work of B’Tselem, the human rights organization in Israel/Palestine, of which her daughter Jessica was the director at the time.

Besides her important films, Judy was active in the Bay Area post of the Veterans of the Lincoln Brigade for many years. It was her friendship with the vets that made her work accessible to a large public. She was a member of ALBA’s Honorary Board at the time of her death.