The Spy Behind Home Plate

The story of Moe Berg, an enigmatic Jewish catcher during baseball's Golden Age who joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) to spy for the U.S. on the Nazis' atomic bomb program. Director Aviva Kempner joins us for a Q&A on July 7th.
July 2019
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The Spy Behind Home Plate

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Director: Aviva Kempner

 

2019, USA, 101 minutes, Digital

Language: English

Distributor: mTuckman Media

Q&A with Director Aviva Kempner

Sunday, July 7th following the 4:30 PM screening

Hear Kempner talk to NPR’s Don Gonyea about her documentary below.

Aviva Kempner has a mission in life. She makes films that investigate non-stereotypical images of Jews in history and celebrate the untold stories of Jewish heroes. To her list of those heroes, she has now added Moe Berg.

Based in Washington, D.C., Kempner, a director-writer-producer dynamo, boasts a resume of critically acclaimed and award-winning documentaries, including Rosenwald, Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg, and Peabody winner The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg. She also produced another WWII documentary, Partisans of Vilna.

Child of a U.S. Army officer Harold Kempner and Polish Holocaust survivor Helen Ciesla, Kempner was born in post-World War II Berlin, Germany. Her family history inspired her to make these films about under-known Jewish heroes–television pioneer Gertrude Berg, Hall of Fame baseball superstar Hank Greenberg, philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, and the Jewish resistance to the Nazis. Her films have received top honors from The National Society of Film Critics, the New York Film Critics Circle, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and CINE Golden Eagle and Peabody Awards.

Kempner is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is an avid voting rights advocate for the District of Columbia. She writes film criticism and feature articles for numerous publications.

Program Notes

Aviva Kempner’s The Spy Behind Home Plate is the first feature-length documentary to tell the real story of Morris “Moe” Berg, the enigmatic and brilliant Jewish baseball player turned spy. Berg caught and fielded in the major leagues during baseball’s Golden Age in the 1920s and 1930s. But very few people know that Berg also worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), spying in Europe and playing a prominent role in America’s efforts to undermine the German atomic bomb program during WWII.

The Spy Behind Home Plate reveals the life of this unknown Jewish hero through rare historical footage and photographs as well as revealing interviews with an All-Star roster of celebrities and other individuals from the worlds of sports, spycraft, and history. Berg may have had only a .243 batting average during his 15-year major league career, but it was the stats he collected for the OSS that made him a most valuable player to his country during World War II.

Critics' Praise

“Authoritative and engrossing… Kempner, whose previous docs include The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg and Rosenwald, has done an exceptional job of assembling her sources.”
— Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

“A respectable ode to Berg’s unusual, remarkable life.”
— William Bibbiani, The Wrap

“Kempner’s passion for her remarkable subject is always evident. If she wants you to know a lot about Moe Berg, that’s because there’s a lot worth knowing.”
— Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times


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