“Acting as kind of a panic pixie dream grandpa … Ed Asner makes the role his own.”

Film Inc.




“Wonderful! The audience was stunned in silence…filled with emotion and tears. Great Film!”

Linda Cooper, Sun Valley Jewish Film Festival






Tiger Within employs a number of cinematic devices throughout its 98-minute runtime, utilizing art and animal metaphors to enhance the message of truly discovering oneself, which doesn’t always happen at the right time or without effort.”

Abe Friedtanzer, Cinema Daily US




“Tremendously compelling! Feels like Ed Asner’s love letter to acting & the power of movies..”

George Napper, The Arts STL 




A weighty drama that deals with trauma, forgiveness, love, and child neglect…


“Taking the tiger within us and becoming its master,” speaks volumes for human determination in a movie that is driven by life lesson after life lesson…


A well-intentioned drama that promotes healing and redemption in the face of prejudice and fear…


An inspirational tale of the human experience, from child neglect to taught benightedness to self-loathing, the film covers it all…


The messages of forgiveness, fortitude, and healing are splendidly universal…


Andrew Stover, Film Threat





The core of the film, the relationship between Casey and Samuel really sings…


They are so good together and the scenes are so alive that everything else pales in comparison…


Steve Kopian, Unseen Films





Positive themes of forgiving humanity and finding faith in yourself are prevalent…


Unlikely friendship develops, with the lonely man and the hardened teen finding family in each other…


This drama delivers on themes of faith in yourself and forgiveness of humanity…


Elizabeth Jordan, Common Sense Media





An “After School Special” on some very serious subjects, aimed at a teen audience…


Roger Moore, Movie Nation





Asner demonstrates that at almost 91 years of age, he still has what it takes…


Worth the audience’s attention and time to witness Asner’s portrayal of Samuel, a survivor of the worst the world has to offer, yet still willing to reach out his hand to a child of the streets…


Mildred Austin, Irish Film Critic





Reminder of what family looks like in the midst of a broken world…


She embodies every kid, every person, who felt like they didn’t fit in, Samuel is the savior she didn’t know she needed…


Samuel shows Casey that she’s beautiful, powerful, and beloved…


Samuel provides her salvation, redemption, a hereafter, and in her taking his hand, she provides him the same…


It’s beauty, beauty from ashes…


Jacob Sahms, Dove.Org



A redemptive story about the power of forgiveness and unconditional love to transform lives and overcome ignorance, fear and hate…


Absorbing drama…


Gerri Miller, Jewish Journal





A study of brokenness, fear, hatred, wisdom, forgiveness, and healing…


Two very different people who manage to find a connection they both need to survive…


Touches upon a number of issues of import…


In a world where racial hatred and neo-Nazis have become more visible and vocal, it is wrong to remain silent…


Cross of innocence and repugnance help us see a bit of the humanity of sex workers…


Before either can move on to a better life, they must first forgive themselves…


Big issue is forgiveness—not an easy thing for anyone…


Darrel Mason, Screen Fish





Illuminates the story of two damaged people and the bridge of compassion they build.


Filmed on a shoestring budget on the streets of Los Angeles.


Maya Mirsky,

Ed Asner’s Final Role as a Holocaust Survivor Is Unforgettable

Alan Zeitlin

“Tiger Within” Features a Breakout Performance by Newcomer Margot Josefsohn as a Troubled Teen

Margot Josefsohn and Ed Asner as Casey and Samuel in the powerful new film ‘Tiger Within.” Photo Courtesy of Menemsha Films

Screenwriter Gina Wendkos remembers walking in a Jewish cemetery in Hollywood when the idea for the feature film “Tiger Within” struck her.

“I wondered, if I survived the Holocaust, could I forgive,” Wendkos, who wrote the 2000 film “Coyote Ugly,” told the Journal. “If a man suffered, what would it be like afterward? I would hear people say ‘what’s the big deal with the Holocaust? People in wars die all the time.’ No this was a different horror. So, I created an imagined character.”

He was Samuel (Ed Asner), an elderly Holocaust survivor. While visiting his wife’s grave, he sees a teenage girl who appears upset and homeless.

She is Casey, who has a swastika on her jacket and claims that six million Jews were not killed in the Holocaust. Even though she is pretty, she’s convinced she’s ugly. Hermother appears to care more about her new boyfriend than her daughter, while her father has a new family. She works as a prostitute, and doesn’t want to be anybody’s charity case,

Samuel invites her to stay at his Los Angeles apartment. He has two conditions: She must take the swastika off her jacket and she must go to school. She agrees.

“God presented me with a challenge,” he tells her. “If I could learn to forgive you, a child in a swastika, then perhaps I could learn to forgive all before I die.”

He doesn’t judge her, though he advises her against the illegal way she makes money. It turns into a grandfather/granddaughter relationship.

Shocked at why is helping her, Samuel explains that he didn’t get to teach his own daughters to be ladies; theywere twins who died in the Holocaust.

He encourages her to reach out to her family. The film gets its title from Samuel explaining that one must embrace fear and bring the tiger inside.

Asner, an  Emmy and Golden Globe winning Jewish actor, is tough and gruff but kind. Margot Josefsohn gives a breakthrough performance as Casey, and she nails the role of an angsty teen who fears she may not find love, acceptance or a purpose. Her talent is undeniable and when she cries or when she screams it is impossible not to feel her pain. Casey’s ranting stems not from hate but from ignorance. But she’s a quick study when she has the right teacher and appreciates a person who gives her a chance when others have given up on her.

Director Rafal Zielinski said he and Wendkos had been trying to make this film for 20 years and, over the years, had approached actors such as Natalie Portman, Kirsten Stewart and Martin Landau. He was giving a ride to a friend who happened to be working with Asner, who called up the actor and put the director on the phone. Zielinski pitched the film to him and Asner told him to drop the script off by the doorstep. He did and Asner accepted the role.

“It was a kind of a miracle,” Zielinski said.

Finding the young actress was tough. He said he saw Josefsohn, then a 14-year-old who had never acted in a film, at an audition for a commercial.

“I saw her, and she hadn’t really acted before, but I noticed she had deep expressive eyes,” Zielinski said. “She was magnetic.”

The casting director wanted an 18-year-old to play a 14-year-old. Zielinski and Weendkos disagreed and knew Josefsohn would be perfect for the role.

Wendkos said she is happy the movie got made.

“There were a number of times I thought it wouldn’t happen,” Wendos said. “Everyone that saw the script loved it, but they said with an older character and a young girl, they can’t open a movie.”

The film was delayed due to the pandemic. Both said the film is especially poignant now.

“My mother really wanted this film to get made,” said Zielinski, who is from Warsaw. “She is, what you might say, a partial survivor. She was Jewish in Białystok, Poland. Her husband wasn’t Jewish. Somehow, they slipped through the cracks, and whenever the Nazis came, they would hide her in the cellars. My mother told me they would drive in one direction and Nazis took Jews away in another direction. It was terrifying and sad. She suffered a lot.”

Zielinski said she died a few months ago. Asner died in Tarzana, in 2021.

A scene where a group of skinheads vandalize a synagogue was shot in Westwood.

“I had no idea when I wrote the script what kinds of things would happen,” Wendkos said, “how antisemitism would be happening, and people would deny the Holocaust or not know about it. When I was young, I was the dumbest one, but now, I’m the smartest. It’s like everybody else took a dumb pill.”

She noted that her ex-husband told her she was the first Jew he ever met and when they were getting  divorced, her ex-mother-in-law said he should “take the Jew for all she’s worth.”

She said Asner approved Josefsohn and “the camaraderie they had in real life mimicked the warmth of the movie. He watched out for her.”

She said Asner, who was used to air-conditioned trailers, didn’t complain much because he cared about the mission of the movie, but she gave him popcorn when he was cranky.

Josefsohn, who is now 20, said she researched skinheads and the Holocaust for the role.

“I was nervous seeing the older girls at the audition,” Josefsohn told the Journal. “I’d done modeling but hadn’t acted in a film and once I learned who Ed was, I was a little intimidated because I didn’t know what to expect.”

The Santa Barbara resident said it felt very natural to act with Asner, who was kind to her.

“I think the message of the film is it’s important to let people feel the need to love and be loved,” she said.

In the movie, Casey is courted by her classmate Tony, played by Diego Josef, a cool handsome boy, who before their date tells a protective Samuel that he doesn’t have to worry … “this time.”

Casey gains confidence when Samuel buys her a beautiful dress and Samuel sees her as part of the family that was ripped away from him.

Zielenski said he interviewed a number of people about the nature of forgiveness in Los Angeles and New York City prior to making the film. He said it was an honor to direct Asner in his final film.

“He was such treasure to work with,” he said. “He was very proud of this.”

Wendkos said she does not regret casting an unknown or sticking to the vision of her script.

“She was so good we were flabbergasted,” she said of Josefsohn. “This script was something I cared a lot about and the message was important.

Asked if she plans to do more feature films, Josefsohn said it was possible and she will examine what comes next.

“Tiger Within” is a simple yet piercing film that reminds us that drowning people who say hateful things may change their tune when the tide has turned and they are safely on land. There is the realization that life can be a nightmare or a fairy tale, but most often is something in-between.

As for Zielinski, he had not expected things to change so much in the last few years.

“We are living in a very disturbing and dark time where there is misinformation and people can be easily influenced to believe incorrect things,” he said. “For this reason, this is a film I hope young people see. I hope we can turn one stone, and then another and another.”

“Tiger Within” is available to rent on ChaiFlicks, Amazon Prime and other streaming video on demand services. It is playing in select theatres including The Laemmle Town Center in Encino.





By Jacob Sahms

Casey (Margot Josefsohn) has anger issues, ones she can’t quite explain because she’s looking at her fourteen years up close. When she finally runs away from the school where she’s misunderstood and the home where her mother’s boyfriend makes her persona non grata, she runs headfirst into the arms of Holocaust survivor Samuel (Ed Asner). She’s working the streets to get by as a homeless teen, while he’s longing for someone to love – to create a family with – and then, suddenly, life throws them together.

Tiger Within, from screenwriter Gina Wendkos (The Princess Diaries, Coyote Ugly) and Sundance-winning director Rafal Zielinski, burns slowly, stalking the audience with Casey’s roughness and Samuel’s grace. She doesn’t believe in the Holocaust; he lost everything because of it. She cusses and hits and screams; he’s patient, calm, and forgiving. They are an odd couple, but one that provides a necessary reminder of what family looks like in the midst of a broken world.

Casey doesn’t fit in, and she does everything she can to accentuate that as the film opens. She’s tattooed curse words on herself; she has a swastika on her jacket that doesn’t mean what she thinks it means. She knows her mom isn’t who she needs her to be, and she challenges the violent expectations (off screen) that exist between her mother and her mother’s boyfriend. She’s smart and oblivious; she’s fourteen! But when she makes the decision to go on the run, she explores options for friendship and family that don’t pan out. She embodies every kid, every person, who felt like they didn’t fit in – who felt like their family turned their back on them.

Samuel is the savior she didn’t know she needed.

Opposite Casey, Asner’s Samuel is serene, uncomplicated, quiet. He’s lost everything and lives in isolation. He values prayer, the synagogue, the possibility of saving a broken thing to make his own soul well. Samuel could be the Biblical Job, but he’s also Eli in the temple realizing that his lifelong end is to pass on his lessons learned to someone else (the young boy Samuel transposed for Casey here). Samuel shows Casey that she’s beautiful, powerful, and beloved. He shows her the tiger within, and in an artistically-communicated way, Zielinski blends animation and reality together to show us how Casey releases that Tiger.

The understanding of one’s place in the world, to care for one another, to make something new out of so much pain – this is such a lesson for 2020. People look around and see the state of things, and sit in sackcloth and ashes, instead of offering a hand up to each other. Instead of moving forward, finding a way forward together, too often, we scratch and claw. That’s the life Casey is destined for, condemned maybe by her mother’s choices. But Samuel provides her salvation, redemption, a hereafter, and in her taking his hand, she provides him the same.

It’s beauty, beauty from ashes.



Tiger Within – Choosing Not to Hate

“I think God gives everyone the same gift. Most people don’t unwrap the gift.”

Rafal Zielinski’s Tiger Within is a study of brokenness, fear, hatred, wisdom, forgiveness, and healing. It is the story of two very different people who manage to find a connection they both need to survive.

Casey (played by the 14 year old Margot Josefsohn) is a 14 year old punk runaway who has come to L.A. to live with her father, who obviously is more interested in his new family. She quickly loses everything she has (except her swastika emblazoned jacket) on the streets. Samuel (the nonagenarian Ed Asner) is a holocaust survivor, now all alone in the world. His days are empty, except for the bitterness that remains towards everyone.

Their first encounter takes place in the Jewish cemetery where Samuel has gone to visit his wife’s grave. On the way out he sees Casey curled up asleep—seeing only the back of her jacket with the swastika. After he walks away, he returns and waits for her to awaken. They begin a very tentative conversation. Casey is wary of what Samuel wants. He buys her food and takes her to his apartment so she can shower and sleep. His acts of kindness make only a crack in her defenses.Some time later, we find Casey working at a massage parlor (yes, that kind of massage parlor), and living in a cheap motel. When Samuel runs across her again, they continue to talk. They make a deal. She can live with him if she goes to school and removes the swastika from her jacket. It gives Casey a place that is safe, and it give Samuel a chance to act as a parent. (He lost his daughters in the Holocaust.) The bond they build sustains them, but it is also very fragile.

We might wonder why Samuel would create that first encounter and why he would struggle to make a bond with this girl who was so different and so difficult. He tells her that it was because he made a promise to his wife—to stop hating. And by focusing on not hating Casey, perhaps he’d learn to not hate everything else.The film touches upon a number of issues of import. One of those is holocaust denial. When Samuel and Casey first meet, she tells him that her mother has taught her that the Holocaust is a lie. Polls have recently found that many young people either don’t know of or don’t believe the facts about the Holocaust. In a world where racial hatred and neo-Nazis have become more visible and vocal, it is wrong to remain silent.

Another issue in the film is that of young sex workers. As a runaway, about the only job available for Casey is a clandestine job providing “happy endings”. What strikes us in this story is that even though she has been a sex worker, she is terrified of a boy in school asking her for a date. She’s never had a date. She never been kissed. That cross of innocence and repugnance help us see a bit of the humanity of sex workers.The big issue is forgiveness—not an easy thing for anyone. Samuel’s bitterness towards the world has an obvious source in the Holocaust. He lost his family. That Casey would think it never happened is appalling to him. To welcome Casey into his life is obviously a challenge.Casey has much to forgive as well. Neither her mother nor her father wants anything to do with her. She doesn’t fit in with anyone around her. She is victimized in various ways. She has had no real love in her life.

Yet, it is not so much the objects of their bitterness and hatred that is the real focus of forgiveness. Before either can move on to a better life, they must first forgive themselves.Film credits are often ignored when they come on the screen. The credits for this film are worth noting. The first of the closing credits are “special thanks for all the words of wisdom from” a variety of spiritual advisors, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Native American, and Buddhist. (There are videos of these advisors on the film’s website under “Forgiveness.)