Brief Review: Finding Safety; Remembering Sorrow
Multiply by Six Million
Evvy Eisen’s film based on her photography exhibit “The Legacy Project” includes 40 luminous black-and-white prints of Holocaust survivors (right) and the subjects’ narrations of their experiences of loss as well as lives rebuilt. “When the Holocaust survivors have all died, I hope the younger people will continue to tell our story…,” says one survivor. The 25-minute work premieres on the Sundance Channel on May 2 and will be rerun over two years; it is also available on DVD. Check local email@example.com).
Sosúa: A Refuge for Jews in the Dominican Republic
The history of the 700 Jews of the Dominican Republic—the only country to welcome refugees from Nazism in 1938—and the agricultural settlement at Sosúa (above), an abandoned banana plantation they built into a thriving town, is explored with images, letters, maps, religious artifacts and German sheet music (“I Lost My Heart in Heidelberg”). Former urbanites, Jews were unprepared for the tropics, though they eventually inegrated into island life. Until July 25 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, New York ( www.mjhnyc.org).
Dry Tears: An Installation by Rosalyn Engelman
Streams in the Desert
Composer Meira Warshauer’s glorious interpretation of the Shabbat morning service (“Shaharit”) for orchestra and chorus is lush, powerful and moving—from the dramatic cadences of “Sh’ma” to the tender strains of “Oseh Shalom.” With the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Slovak Philharmonic Chorus and soloists; Kirk Trevor, conductor (www.albanyrecords.com).
Borsht with Bread, Brothers: Klezmer
Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi offer a rich and diverse collection—from militaristic (“Vemen Veln Mir Dinen, Brider,” from Russia) to ethereal (“Szol a Kakos Mar,” Hungarian Hasidic by way of Roma) to dance (“Oberek Palota,” Slovakian-Polish) to prayerful (“Ki Onu Amekho,” Ger Hasidim) as well as a wedding niggun from Germany. ARC Music ( www.arcmusic.co.uk).
Praying With Lior
This tender portrait of Lior Liebling (right), his family and community shows that Down syndrome does not stop a young man from having a joyous bar mitzva. From the time he is a toddler in his mother, Devorah’s, lap, Lior davens with abandon. Though she dies when he is 6, Devorah’s spirit hovers over this award-winning documentary directed by Ilana Trachtman. Keep tissues handy. First Run Features (www.prayingwithlior.com).
After his family is murdered in World War II, Jakob, a Polish Jewish child, is spirited out of the country by a Greek archaeologist. Though protected and loved, Jakob grows up facing the agony of his past. The film cannot capture the lyrical language of Anne Michael’s novel, on which it is based, but the reordering of past and present events give it a more unified feeling. IDP/ Samuel Goldwyn Films (www.samuelgoldwynfilms.com).
More Than 1,000 Words
Beneath the clichés, truisms and convictions the West has about Israel lies a terrifying reality lived every day by people on both banks. This award-winning documentary about photojournalist Ziv Koren lays bare that reality. Koren and filmmaker Solo Avital produce work of such exceptional quality that this film is one that (pardon the cliché) is a must see. Telepool Films (www.telepool.com).
—Judith Gelman Myers
House of Life: The Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague
Replete with legends, Prague’s cemetery (left) is where travelers encounter old souls whose graves are piled 12 layers high. Allan Miller and Mark Podwal’s documentary provides historical background, and current interviews reveal a mystical city and its claim to fame—Rabbi Judah Loew’s golem. The Music Project for Television (www.houseoflifefilm.com).
—Sara Trappler Spielman
Former priest James Carroll and director Oren Jacoby travel the world to explore Church-sanctioned persecution of Jews and Muslims from the rise of Emperor Constantine. As the film, based on Carroll’s book of the same name, looks at modern-day religious fanaticism and evangelical proselytizing, the author questions how religion and freedom of belief can coexist. First Run Features (www.constantinessword.com).
“Is there hope?” a student at the University of California, Berkeley, asks in Bill Jersey’s documentary. Still, despite expected confrontations—especially at talks by anti-Zionist Norman Finkelstein and pro-Zionist Alan Dershowitz at Columbia University in New York—there is no violence. In fact, several dialogues lead, if not to cooperation, to a degree of understanding. Quest Productions (www.questprod.com).
In Edward Sloman’s 1925 drama of family love and loyalty (left), Papa throws one son out because he’s become a boxer, yet it is his up-and-coming lawyer son who tells his boss and fiancée he’s an orphan. Happily, Papa reevaluates his values, but not before the plot takes some unexpected turns. National Center for Jewish Film (www.brandeis.edu/jewishfilm).
An abundance of sites herald Israel’s 60th anniversary. Both the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Conservative movement list upcoming events. The JAFI’s www.60israel.org includes children’s programs, while the Conservative www.israelanniversary.org links to educational material throughout the Web. For a look at the Jewish state’s achievements, try www.israelcelebrates60.com or a blog from the World Zionist Organization, www.israelatsixty.org.il, which focuses on news and opinions.
—Leah F. Finkelshteyn