Tag: Jews


No Place on Earth

April 11th, 2013 — 6:30pm

****noplaceonearth

No Place on Earth – sp Just as you think that you have seen every type of Holocaust film, a movie such as this one comes along. It not only tells the story of the survival of a group of Ukrainian Jews who hid for 511 days in the world’s deepest caves in the Ukraine but it will push all your buttons when several of them, including a 91 year old energetic gentleman, return with their grandchildren 67 years later to visit the their old, darkened, dingy home which in some places was over 50 feet underground. Film maker Janet Tobias, who has been a producer for 60 Minutes and Prime Time Live, learned about this story when a colleague showed her a National Geographic article that Chris Nicola, a New York State Investigator who has a serious hobby of exploring caves all over the world, had written. Nicola, during one of his vacations, explored this unusual deep gypsum cave in the Ukraine and came across some human artifacts, which included a shoe, a cup, and some buttons. He returned to the area for the next couple of years asking the local people if they knew about where they had come from. Most did not, but one person said it might have something to do with the Jews. Nicola embedded key words in his web sites meant to attract people searching for their genealogy related to the Holocaust and these specific caves.. This ultimately led him to make connections with the actual survivors, most of who were living in Canada. This included Esther Stermer who wrote a book about her experience titled “We Fight to Survive” She said she wrote this book so her grandchildren would know about what they had been through during World war II. Little did she know, thanks to Ms. Tobias and this film, she would actually accompany her grandchildren back to this hidden cave and watch her granddaughter descend into the deepest depths to visit this special place in her family history. This film is actually a modified docu-drama. Part of the film includes getting know several of the survivors as they narrate the film in an articulate at times emotional manner giving us a feel for their fortitude, determination and even their sense of humor. We see how the decision is made by the family matriarch to pack up as much of their belongings as possible and flee to avoid deportation (which would have ultimately led to their extermination). We feel the experience through the eyes of a 70-year-old woman as a 4 and 5 year old. Interspersed with this narration, we witness a reenactment by Hungarian/Ukrainian actors, adults and children as they crawl through barely lit crevices and help us understand what it was like to live there, interacting with each other and risking their lives to bring food to their hiding places. There is one close call after another along with heroism, good luck but most of all the will to live. This combination of a documentary with actual actors was quite an accomplishment to effectively pull off. We knew the people narrating the story survived, but we were still on the edge of our seats. We didn’t quite anticipate the emotional reaction we would have when we saw this band of elderly people return to these caves with their families and could show their grandchildren a place that was truly like no place on earth and their most remarkable survival experience. (2013)

Postscript:  If you are interested in some of the untold stories of survivors of the Holocaust I recommend that you consider reading a remarkable  book which I reviewed about a year ago in my Psychiatry Blog as well as in BookRap.net

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, History, War

The Harmonists

March 9th, 2012 — 12:54am

***

The Harmonists – nf  This German film with English subtitles was originally titled the Comedic Harmonists which is the name of one of the most famous vocal groups to ever perform in Germany. This film is the story of  how Harry Frommermann, (Ulrich Noethen) originally pulled together this sextet in Germany during the depression from 4 other  talented singers and a piano player who were barely getting by in those hard times. They rehearsed for many months honing their style of syncopated but soothing harmony mostly choosing popular classics frequently with humorous lyrics. They became immensely popular in Germany. The story line shows how they came together as a group and also depicts some of their romantic connections. This is all based on a true story and the music that we hear is the actual music of the Comedic Harmonists of the 1930s.  However as we all know something else was going on in Germany during this period. Harry Frommermann and two other members of this group were Jewish. As we follow the now successful group  and perhaps identify with their joy in realizing their hopes and dreams, we also  begin to appreciate what was happening all around them. Some of the scenes  remind us  of the denial of so many proud older German Jews who couldn’t accept that they were slowly but surely being rejected by their beloved country. The Harmonists briefly perform in the United States and Harry has a conflict whether he should return to Germany. Each time we read a book or see a movie about this period of history we develop an iota more of insight into the plight of the Jewish people of that time and also of what can happen to any of us (Jews or not) when people are led to hate one group or another. The power of music to tap into our  emotions no doubt will help to embed this piece of history and this film into the viewers psyche. (1997)  

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Musical

Life of Brian (Monty Python)

March 25th, 2011 — 4:12am

***

Life of  Brian ( Monty Python) nf – Every once an awhile we get a hankering to see an old movie that people always talk about but we have not seen.  This time we chose this comedy classic that was made 31 years ago and more recently we heard some folks even older than we reminiscing about what a funny film this was. Now we realize that we can’t judge it by contemporary standards. Satire always is at its best when the events that it is making fun of have recently happened. This movie however, is ridiculing events that happened more than 2000 years ago! It was unique in film making at the time as it attempted to  take on religious history and show absolutely no reverence for either Christians or Jews. I don’t recall if any groups boycotted the film but you can see how that might happen.  Ironically, if you turned on today’s news reports and you didn’t know when this film was made you might also think that it was  trying to be a satire of the struggling factions in the middle east taking on their despotic powerful leaders in 2011. The movie opens as Brian ( Graham Chapman ) is a new born child in the stable next door to where Jesus was born and the 3 Wise Men almost mistake him for the Messiah as they came bearing gifts. Brian grows up to join one of the three waring factions which are pitted against the powerful Romans. His buddies in his particular group are the other stars of the movie (John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Ifle and Michael Palin) and everyone had a British accent. Incidentally, all the stars including the director Terry Jones play multiple parts in the movie. The physical setting (filmed apparently in Tunisia) and the costumes are very realistic which makes all the satire and humor come off so well. Once you allow yourself to go with the flow and put aside your respect for human life and people’s religious beliefs, you might find yourself getting some good laughs. Women feel that it is not fair to their sex that they are not allowed to go to a stoning so they wear fake beards so they can participate. There is an argument about people having big noses. People mistake Brian for the Jesus like leader  because they didn’t understand what he was saying and they are willing to follow him anywhere. There is a great musical number sung during a mass crucifixion. If you think you can handle these events, you might enjoy this movie and appreciate why it is a classic.  (1979)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Barney’s Version

February 7th, 2011 — 11:30pm

***

Barney’s Version: rm   The last time we saw a Paul Giamatti film, this talented actor was in  Cold Souls, a 2009 release and he was present on screen for what seemed to be more than 95% of the movie. Such is the case with Barney’s Version as the film revolves around Barney Panofsky and his arrogant, self centered and yet needy persona over a forty year period. A man who meets his third wife (Rachell Lefevre) at his  wedding to his  second wife (Minnie Driver) and then leaves the reception to pursue her is certainly suspect of being not such a nice guy. Then there is the question why would #3 allow her self to be interested in him knowing his history? Despite her seeming to be a charming intelligent, lovely woman herself is she so  flattered by his attention and persistence that she ultimately becomes his wife and mother of his two children? It is interesting to consider how this movie depicts women. While certainly a complicated issue considering the time setting of most the scenes (20-30 years ago), it did seem that for the most part they are shown in a stereotypical manner mainly  as appendages to the men in their lives. Then there is the fact that Barney is clearly Jewish. The wedding is a stereotypical Jewish affair (except perhaps there is an over emphasis on alcohol). The movie is based on a novel by Mordecai Richler is well known for writing about the struggle of Jews such as his acclaimed book Apprentice of Dudley Kravitz set in Canada in a Jewish environment as was much of this story. In this regard Dustin Hoffman plays Izzy, Barney’s very Jewish father but he happens to be a cop! It also seemed to us that the storyline really had to go to an extreme at the conclusion to get us to really feel sympathetic towards Barney. However, in the end it is the acting of Giamatti which will stand the best chance of selling this movie. He apparently sold the Golden Globes as they gave him the award for the best actor in a musical or comedy and we don’t think this movie is a  comedy at all and certainly isn’t a musical. In fact the movie was released in late January 2011 so we aren’t even sure how this qualified for the award. But on the other hand, this isn’t your ordinary story; it is Barney’s Version. (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story

December 30th, 2010 — 1:09am

****

Jews and Baseball rm-  An American Love Story- You don’t have to be Jewish or a baseball fan to get something out of this well done documentary. However, the more you fit into these categories, the more you will want to be sure that you catch up with this film. Every Jewish kid should get a DVD of this film for his or her 13th birthday. It is written by Ira Berkow, Pulitzer Prize winniing author and directed by Peter Miller. There are interviews with baseball greats and people who knew them. There are also personal comments by people such as Larry King, Ron Howard and Dustin Hoffman The emergence of Jewish baseball stars, mirrors the story of the Jewish immigrants being able to partake in the American dream. The difficulties that these baseball heroes encountered spotlight the anti-Semitism that festered in the United States. The film also makes a point of showing that the problems that these Jews had in taking their rightful place on the baseball diamond were not very different than the next group had in challenging the discrimination barrier in this game. This latter point was illustrated in an incident that happened at the tail end of Jewish icon Hank Greenberg’s baseball career during the rookie year of Jackie Robinson. Robinson was trying to beat a base hit when he collided with Greenberg who was playing first base. As the two highly competitive players brushed themselves off, Greenberg gently offered Robinson good luck in dealing with the resistances, which he knew Robinson, would experience as the first black baseball player. The film tells the stories with interviews of the pioneer Jewish ball players in the major leagues. One such player is the legendary Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodger Sandy Koufax, who will be known forever for pitching four no hitters and also skipping a crucial World Series game in order to attend Jewish high Holiday services. This movie also profiled a budding Jewish baseball player whose name we sadly don’t recall because he only had one major leagues at bat during which time on the first pitch he was hit in the head and suffered a severe concussion. After months of recovery he is still struggling in the minor leagues hoping to come back to major-league baseball with the hope of living his dream. This movie is about the baseball dream that many Jewish kids have had and a select few have realized but it is a dream that every kid understands.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Documentary, History, Sport

Back to top