At Monday night’s Liberty: Mother of Exiles premiere, filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato explained that they started filming the documentary before Donald Trump became president and that it became more relevant to them the longer they worked on it.
“Little did we know that everything that would happen in the next three years only make what Lady Liberty stands for even more important than ever,” Bailey told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think it made the film ultra relevant.”
In spite of all of this, Liberty isn’t a politically charged film. As Bailey put it, the documentary is “a journey of discovery,” exploring the statue’s history and cultural significance. Before embarking on the journey, the film opens with the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Statue of Liberty Museum, which took place earlier this year.
Diane von Furstenberg, who serves as an executive producer for the documentary, played a large role in the museum’s relocation from the statue’s pedestal. At the premiere, she attributed her involvement to years of being asked to join the board of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation by its president and CEO Stephen Briganti.
“I got more and more interested,” she said, explaining that she made up her mind after writing her 2014 memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be. “In the book, I put a little note about my mother. My mother was a Holocaust survivor. She was actually in Auschwitz for 13 months before I was born. And she wrote me a little note that said, ‘God saved me so that I can give you life. By giving you life, you gave me my life back. You are my torch of freedom.’ “
Von Furstenberg said Briganti then sent her this excerpt, underlining “torch of freedom.” So she joined the board — with the condition that she be named the “godmother” of Lady Liberty — and ultimately led the museum’s fundraising campaign. The designer not only raised $100 million, but also commissioned an augmented reality app from Apple’s Tim Cook, which allows users to transport to the top of the statue, see how New York’s skyline has transformed over the years and more.
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