Filmmaker Dovid Muyderman has a unique perspective on living in Portland.

After stops at UMass Lowell, NYU and Taiwan (where he taught kindergarten), Muyderman returned to get a media studies and design degree at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, the city where he and his brother lived for two years as homeless teenagers.

Working alongside Kate Kaminski, a USM professor and local filmmaking mainstay, Muyderman premiered the short autobiographical documentary “Lighthouse: Against the Grain” at this year’s Maine Jewish Film Festival. He describes the film as “about orthodox Judaism, familial conflict, forgiveness and tolerance, with me asking my parents about the different facets of our life, upbringing and what led to the chaos.”

Now Muyderman (along with his wife and co-producer, Khaney) is preparing to shoot his first feature film, “Lighthouse.” It’s a fictionalized version of the harrowing, yet ultimately inspirational, journey of two young brothers on the streets of Portland.

“It’s really a super success story,” said Muyderman, who, apart from filmmaking, is also an advocate for the homeless. (His brother is now an emergency room doctor.) “It’s really gritty and raw, but parts are really poetic too. I’d describe it as a cross between ‘Good Will Hunting’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’ with a ‘Forrest Gump’ narration style. We’re also pursuing a really cool Hollywood actor to do the narration, so fingers crossed.”

Like most independent filmmakers, the Muydermans are pursuing funding for the feature, with some success. “We’re doing really well with grass-roots donations, and we’re in negotiations for some larger sources,” he said.

The pair plans to donate part of whatever proceeds the film makes to the Preble Street Resource Center, earmarked specifically to help homeless teens. “They’re the most malleable, the most able to be helped,” said Muyderman, “so if you can’t help us, donate to them.”

As part of the pre-production on “Lighthouse,” the filmmakers are still auditioning for the film, including the two vital lead roles.

“These two teens, I have looked at every high school in southern Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire,” Muyderman said, “either professional or not. A lot of kids have been on stage, but a lot of people with stacked resumes suck. We’re giving everybody a look.”

The first auditions will be held June 16 at Portland Stage. (See for casting and donation details.)

As for the Muydermans, they are full of praise for the film community in Portland, and for the support of the community in general for both their film and their cause.

“Hopefully, it has some bigger purpose than just buying a ticket,” Muyderman said. “Maybe we can take the people who want instant gratification and have them come out thinking what they can do to help.”

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.


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