Introduction: Oren Goldenberg the Filmmaker

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“I used to look up at the Book Cadillac Building when everything was empty. There’d be one light on. That light would shine bright from one of the top floors. I’d always wonder what’s happening on the top floor? That’s how Detroit was for me when I moved here,” Oren Goldenberg. Oren Goldenberg is a filmmaker, designer of art installations, and Detroit enthusiast. Born in the Detroit area his family has been based here for generations. Meeting the elders of his Family you’ll soon gather a perspective for a Jewish culture that was once prevalent throughout many of the Westside neighborhoods throughout Detroit. This drew Oren into the city to create his first film, “Our School.” “Our School,” is a documentary about Detroit Public Schools and the transitions of the system from 2005 – 2007. A lifetime of hearing his relatives share stories of what Mumford, Central, and Mackenzie High School meant to them as he witnessed news headlines surrounding these institutions throughout his life carry none of the semblance of pride.

Oren began his journey into the world of film through video. Attending high school in Berkley MI he had the opportunity to write a paper or create a video. The video he chose create was a short about the life of Harriet Tubman. Using two VCR VHS decks he edited together his first feature. Moving forward he was hooked. Soon after Oren began to shoot music videos for friends, and friends of friends. D Allie (hip-hop artist from Cold English, and brother to rocker Mayaeni) was one of his first clients. “I started in High School. I was part of the ‘Generation of Promise’ program that pooled students from Metro-Detroit to be creative. Gwen Ahearn was one of my biggest supporters and mentors of my talents at a young age. Gwen selected me to be part of ‘Generation of Promise’ and encouraged me to create. Mentors like her have been BIG inspirations in my life,” Oren.

Bernie Mac, Requiem for Brewster-Douglas, Detroit Blank City
Bernie Mac, Requiem for Brewster-Douglas, Detroit Blank City

As Oren’s passion grew his family also embraced his dream. At 18 years old Oren earned the opportunity to work on the movie ‘Bad Santa’ through a relative. “Bad Santa was fun. I was the youngest person on the set and learned so much. Every day I drove the editor to set where he taught me so much about shooting/ editing. Bernie Mac was joking with me calling me ‘Curly Head.’ Jon Ritter and Billy Bob Thornton were sharing with me. It was a humbling experience,’ Goldenberg.

From High School Goldenberg attended the University of Michigan. What began as required courses to fulfill his interest to learn more to shoot music videos, transitioned into a passion for film. There he met many of the people in his current network of filmmakers, like our mutual friend Sultan Sharrief of the Cinetopia Film Festival.

While attending the University of Michigan Oren began work on ‘Our School.’ Since he’s created works on the Brewster/ Douglass homes, countless music videos (including my first music video for ‘Grown Man Business’ which I still owe him money for), and other transitions in Detroit. The work he’s done on his Web TV Program ‘Detroit Blank City’ has actually banned him from entering any Quicken Loans owned properties. Oren’s commitment to share the stories of often unheard or underexposed people is encouraging. His style and the way he does it certainly adds to the differences in Detroit.