MONA/LISA is a feature documentary that weaves together the stories of three generations and reveals how the lessons of World War II are inspiring and emboldening young people of today.


MONA/LISA is director Alex Rotaru’s hybrid docudrama re-enactment feature film based on the best-selling book THE CHILDREN OF WILLESDEN LANE by Mona Golabek & Lee Cohen, and spotlighting excerpts from the award-winning play THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE starring Mona Golabek under Hershey Felder’s stage direction.

This magically realistic, multi-generational Holocaust story brings to light – albeit through a glass darkly – the lives of three remarkable Jewish women yearning to play the piano and serve Music with ever-increasing professional skill.

In this deeply troubling study of the handing down of both a towering intergenerational trauma and a desperate quest for redemption, our three heroines struggle through the inescapable web of History, the devastation of WWII, and the fog of unspeakable personal tragedies irrevocably blurring the lines between the Vienna resident, Auschwitz victim and grandmother, Malka Jura; the Kristallnacht survivor, Kindertransport escapee to London and mother, Lisa Jura; and the renowned concert pianist, media personality and Los Angeles-based granddaughter, Mona Golabek.

About the Director

Alex Rotaru is an internationally known, multi-award winning filmmaker.  After graduating from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, he directed several award-winning, character-driven, emotionally charged documentaries, including the New York Times Critic’s Pick THEY CAME TO PLAY, and SHOWTIME Networks’ SHAKESPEARE HIGH, produced by Dana Brunetti and Dean Devlin. Meanwhile, as an official U.S. Department of State cultural ambassador,  Alex traveled the world far and wide to educate and entertain in numerous cultural exchange programs, and has been invited often to be a member of international film festival juries. Alex writes screenplays, directs film and theater, and occasionally teaches production master classes. He is currently in pre- and post-production on several scripted and documentary features. Recipient of a Christopher Award for PBS POV’s THE HOBART SHAKESPEAREANS, Alex is best known for his ability to extract unexpected amounts of emotion from interviewees, and getting to the bottom of their deepest stories.

Artist Statement

This film is structurally unique – a hybrid docudrama re-enactment. Numerous and disparate types of footage had to be cohesively strewn together in its making, including direct on-camera interviews with Mona, Holocaust survivors, and historians, Mona’s musical and theatrical performance footage, heart-rending Holocaust archival footage, and more. To braid all this into a smooth and tonally coherent audience experience the approach chosen was one of non-linear magical realism. 

The undercurrents animating the powerful Prima Materia of MONA/LISA work dangerously with the transformative Alchemy of Time.  Allowing the deceivingly perceived linearity of History as both initial premise to be demolished and original sin to be expiated, we lie in wait to lift the veil on its true cyclical nature and explore the inevitable question: is the recurrence indeed eternal, or can the circle of homo homini lupus be broken – and more importantly, HOW? Perhaps we might humbly offer Art as Healing… 

In Production

Alex Rotaru

Hold On To Your Music / Mona Golabek
USC Shoah Foundation / Ryan Fenton and Aaron Zarrow
Tradition Pictures / Matthew Einstein
Lee Cohen

Elliot Levitt

Other Funders
Mann Foundation
Claims Conference
Righteous Persons
Helen & Peter Bing
Libitzky Family Foundation
Post Family Foundation
Roselinde & Arthur Gilbert Foundation
Richard Schwartz
Lothar Weiss
Amida Group / Bruno Wang