The NY Jewish Film Festival and Beyond

As you can imagine, the New York Jewish Film Festival marks my busiest time of the year, three stories in as many weeks, with a large collection of films to see and write about. Here are the kinks to the stories, one, two and finally three. This year's event was a little disappointing overall, but there are several films that are well worth seeking out, either in the festival or afterwards. My personal recommendations would be: Restoration, My Father Evgeni and Daas. In a perfect world, all three would be picked up for US distribution. (Heck, in a perfect world I would be -- oh, never mind.)

Looking ahead, the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art have announced seven selections for this year's New Directors/New Films. I thought it was worth passing along the titles because the geographical spread gives you an interesting picture of the state of cinema in the new year:

Representing nine countries from around the world, the initial seven selections are Karl Markovics' BREATHING (Austria), Anca Damian's CRULIC: THE PATH TO BEYOND (Romania), Julia Murat's FOUND MEMORIES (Brazil/Argentina/France), Pablo Giorgelli's LAS ACACIAS (Argentina/Spain), Joachim Trier's OSLO 31, AUGUST 31ST (Norway), Alejandro Landes's PORFIRIO (Colombia), and Angelina Nikonova's TWILIGHT PORTRAIT (Russia).

Finally, you may have noticed the presence of the Straub-Huillet film The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach on my top 100 list a few weeks back. Unfortunately, the great Gustav Leonhardt, who played Bach -- in both senses of the phrase -- in the film, died yesterday. It's more of a loss for the music world than for film, but I thought it was worth noting.


dan said…

Subject: Your Film Review of "Remembrance"


To The Editor:

I quote from the review by George Robinson.

“Remembrance,” a German film... is of a sort more familiar to Jewish filmgoers. Hannah Silberstein, a German Jew, and Thomasz Limanowski, a Polish Catholic, meet and fall in love in Auschwitz. By the time the film opens, she is pregnant and he has a plan for their escape. The plan is executed with admirable precision...”

... and they more or less live happily ever after.

There is so much wrong with this neat summary that one does not know where to begin. Upon arrival of a transport in Auschwitz, the dazed arrivals faced the familiar command, “Men to the right; women and children to the left.” Thereafter, the men and women who were picked for labor in the camp, rather than the gas chamber, never saw each other again. The men’s and the women’s camps were strictly separated. The idea that the two protagonists would meet in the camp, fall in love, and would be able to have sex and to conceive a child there is utterly and completely preposterous.

From my perspective as a survivor of six German concentration camps, let me tell you that there simply was no sex in the concentration camps. Our starvation diet was a guaranteed killer of the libido. As a result, women lost their menstrual period after a few weeks (which may have been a blessing in disguise). In prisons, in the evenings inmates talk of sex. In the concentration camp, we talked of food.

As for their meticulous, easily accomplished plan for escape... There are very few documented and verified successful escapes from Auschwitz. During the past few years stories started appearing about such escapes — I guess that’s why Mr. Robinson writes that this story may be “more familiar to filmgoers.” All such stories that surfaced during the recent past are suspect and unverifiable. They appear to be pure fiction. I have no doubt that “Remembrance” merely adds another fictional story to the list.

As a Holocaust survivor, as a long-time student of same, and frequent commentator on the subject, I find these fictions to be distortions of history and part and parcel of the continuous trivialization of this subject. We Holocaust survivors are a dying breed: within the next couple of decades we will be extinct. What concerns those of us who are still around is that the testimony about the Holocaust we leave behind is accurate and true. Every word of your review of the film is a disservice to Holocaust history.


Peter Kubicek
New York

The letter writer is the author of a Holocaust memoir titled “1000:1 ODDS – Memoir of a World War II Childhood”

George Robinson
George Robinson Communications