Edward R. Feil was born in Cleveland, Ohio on May 16, 1924 and died peacefully at home with family by his side in Springfield, Ore. on Feb, 5, 2021. He was 96.
The youngest child of writer Nellie Rosalie Feil (neé Elgutter) and cardiac surgeon Dr. Harold Stein Feil, Ed joined his siblings Mary and George.
Born to a family of doctors, Ed was instead drawn to the art of filmmaking. “As early as 1939,” writes film scholar Robert Anen, “Ed was making his own productions at home on 8mm, editing them and creating his own title cards.”
Following graduation from University School in 1942, Ed served in the U.S. Army from 1943-46 (66 Division, Co H264 Infantry), and in 1949, graduated from Yale University with a bachelor’s degree. In 1952, he established Edward Feil Productions in Cleveland.
For the next 50 years, Ed created award-winning documentaries and industrial films, many in collaboration with social worker Naomi “Mimi” Feil (neé Weil), his beloved spouse since 1963. Ed’s films often focused on treating vulnerable people with compassion and dignity, from the disabled (Winged Bequest) to adults seeking literacy (Step A Little Higher), and related to Naomi’s work, people with Alzheimer’s-type dementia: Where Life Still Means Living (1964), awarded by the Council for International Non-Theatrical Events (CINE); Looking for Yesterday (1978, Silver Medallion, the Miami International Film Festival); 100 Years to Live (The Bronze Award, Houston International Film Festival, 1981); My First 100 Years (1984, Emmy Award, National Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cleveland Chapter).
Ed and Mimi’s 1968 medical training film The Inner World of Aphasia stands out as their masterpiece. Celebrated for its artistry as well as its medical accuracy, screened everywhere from medical classes to courses in filmmaking and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, The Hollywood Reporter recently described Inner World as an “empathic and often poetic medical-training film [that] features a powerful performance by co-director Naomi Feil,” and a film that “still is being screened by media artists and independent filmmakers who appreciate its innovative artistic qualities.” The Inner World received a CINE Golden Eagle award in 1968, and in 2015, the Library of Congress placed it in the National Film Registry for preservation.
Ed’s love of film extended into his personal life, amassing a library of home movies that chronicled his life as well as captured historically momentous events, from combat training during WWII to the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The Moving Image Archive of Indiana University acquired Ed’s entire film library in 2016, and as Anen expressed amid inventorying the collection, “I have been given the chance to examine the artistic process of a filmmaker whose passion burned so hot with his love for cinema that even his home life seemed like a film set. He could even make something like a cashmere factory look cinematic.”
Ed was also an ardent bicyclist with the Western Reserve Wheelers, a devoted member of the Rowfant Club literary society, and remained active with the Alumni Associations for his Alma Maters. Ed was also a patron of the arts, donating to independent film productions as well as volunteering at local community theaters. Ed and Naomi were also longtime members of the Jewish Secular Community in Cleveland, and more recently, Temple Beth Israel of Eugene.
Ed is survived by his wife Naomi, his sons Edward G. “Eddie” and Ken, his step-daughters Vicki de Klerk-Rubin and Beth Rubin, his grandchildren Ethan and Claudia Feil, Helena and Kate de Klerk, Elinor and Jordan Rubin-McGregor and numerous nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the Validation Training Institute at vfvalidation.org