PETIT RAT, a new documentary, a love story between a mother and her two daughters, premieres on World Channel on Sunday, July 17 at 7:00 pm ET/PT, and on PBS+ as well. The film written, directed, and choreographed by Vera Wagman, examines the Wagman family’s history and spans nearly 80 years.

In 1940 a French Jewish girl, Vera’s mother, Fernande has a dream of becoming a ballerina cut short and destroyed by the Nazi invasion of Paris. Fernande vows that if she has daughters, they will become dancers. Decades later, Fernande and her two daughters confront the impact of that pledge as they dance together for the very first time towards reconciliation and forgiveness. PETIT RAT is a portrait of three women, bonded by the intergenerational trauma of war and uplifted by the resilience of familial love.

PETIT RAT has screened at various film festivals around the world to critical acclaim, including the Miami Jewish Film Festival (where it received an Audience Award), Kitzbuehel Film Festival, Woods Home Film Festival, Cinequest Film Festival, Vail Film Festival, FIBA – International Documentary Film Festival, Buenos Aires, Near Nazareth, and FICS, the Festival del Cinema di Salerno.


Director/Writer/Choreographer: Vera Wagman

Co-Director/Director of Photography: Scott Whitham

Producers: Vera Wagman, Russell Rothberg

Executive Producers: Robert Grossman, Russell Rothberg, Andrew Carlberg

Editor: Esther Shubinski

Composer: Joy Ngiaw

Cast: Fernande Wagman, Deborah Wagman, Vera Wagman

Vera Wagman has directed short films including INTERLUDE (Hypnotic Films/Sundance Channel, and Montreal, Boston, Dances with Films and Clermont-Ferrand Film Festivals), HIGH NOON (PBS’ “Are We On”), and JEOPARDY, a documentary short about an at-risk youth program in Los Angeles where the students train as boxers and dancers. Vera started her career as a dancer with company credits including David Storey/NY and Pennsylvania Dance Theatre where she worked with such innovative choreographers as Ohad Naharin and Nina Weiner. She has produced arts events for Santa Monica’s Cultural Affairs Division and most recently choreographed MARCH, an original play produced by the LGBT Center and Playwright’s Arena in Los Angeles.

Fernande Wagman was born in Paris, France, in 1932. She spent nearly five years of her childhood hidden by French Christians in the Savoie, the Free Zone of then Nazi-occupied France. After obtaining a law degree in Paris, she immigrated to the United States in 1958, where she received a graduate degree in education. She was the Chair of the French department at The Academy of the Holy Angels in New Jersey until 1997. Fernande wrote Faisons Des Affairs, a textbook for French for business that was used in American high schools and universities. She also wrote her memoir, The Demarcation Line, which is currently in its second edition. In 1995, the government of France named Fernande a Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Academiques.

Deborah Wagman is a former professional ballet dancer with American Ballet Theatre II and Ballet West.  After leaving the ballet world, she ventured into the world of Latin Ballroom dancing where she studied with ballroom champion, Matt Hauer. For the last 21 years, Deborah has been teaching the Pilates Method to people of all ages and is certified in bodyART™, a strength and movement training workout. Teaching Ballet and Pilates to dancers has been a most meaningful way of connecting with her students and relaying her deep knowledge of dance and movement to the next generation of artists. Deborah is the proud mother of her two sons, Ari and Daniel.


New York Jewish Guide