Description from TIFF 2009 catalog by Jane Schoettle:
History has many unsung chroniclers, but perhaps none has been eyewitness to as many of the modern world’s pivotal events as Ruth Gruber. Now ninety-seven, Gruber has been unswerving in her drive to capture her experiences in print and photos so that the public might grasp the meaning and repercussions of actions far from home. In Ahead of Time by renowned cinematographer-turned-director Bob Richman, she is still as smart, vibrant and meticulously groomed as she must have been throughout years of global adventures.
Born in 1911 in Brooklyn, Ruth Gruber was a feminist before she even knew the word. Driven by a relentless intellectual curiosity, she moved to Germany to study and became the world’s youngest Ph.D. holder at the age of twenty. She also witnessed the rising tide of Nazism during those years, which drove her to become a foreign correspondent and photojournalist. In 1935, she was the first journalist to enter the Soviet Arctic, writing a bestselling book about her experience there.
It was during and after the Second World War that Gruber’s life became irretrievably enmeshed in world events. Despite years of grim news coming out of Europe, the American Congress had refused to lift the quota on Jewish immigration to the United States. Finally, President Roosevelt allowed a group of one thousand refugees to travel by ship to America in 1944. Gruber was asked to secretly escort the ship from Europe to America, and her record of the journey was later made into the television miniseries Haven, starring Natasha Richardson.
The stories of the refugees had such a profound effect on Gruber that she dedicated the rest of her life, professional and personal, to assisting Jewish people in jeopardy. She covered the Nuremberg trials and reported the entire odyssey of the Exodus in 1947, as an embattled ship of Holocaust survivors headed for Palestine became hostage to further violence and global anti-Semitism. Of the hundreds of journalists present, Gruber was the only one allowed aboard the ship, and her seminal photo of the refugees hoisting a Union Jack with a swastika painted on it went around the world.
Ruth Gruber defines the notion of a life well lived, and this incisive, articulate and moving portrait of her will have viewers running to the bookshelves for any one of the nineteen works she has written.
About the director:
Bob Richman has worked as a cinematographer on numerous television series and films, including the Academy Award&”174;-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth (06) and the feature documentaries My Architect (03), Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (04) Constantine’s Sword (07), Killing Kasztner (08), and The September Issue (09). Ahead of Time (09) is his directorial debut.