furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat May 24 16:02:56 MDT 2003
***** [Selected from the Rutenberg and Everett Yiddish Film Library
of the National Center for Jewish Film]
* _Children Must Laugh_ (Mir Kumen On)
Poland 1935 63 minutes B&W English and Yiddish with English subtitles
Director: Aleksander Ford for the Jewish Labor Bund
Directed by Lodz native Aleksander Ford and financed by the Jewish
Labor movement in Poland, _Children Must Laugh_ is one of the few
surviving documentaries about Jewish life in Poland before WWII.
This institutional film was produced to raise funds for the Vladimir
Medem Sanitarium which, noted for its modern and spacious facilities,
stood as the embodiment of health and enlightenment, in striking
contrast to the grim images of urban Polish-Jewish poverty. The
sanitarium's theme song, "Mir Kumen On (Here We Come)," punctuates
the film with a sense of hope and accomplishment. The Bund's
optimistic internationalism, exemplified by the children's endearing
performances, permeates the film, creating powerful yet unintended
ironies for post-Holocaust audiences.
* _Comrade Abram_ (Tovarishch Abram)
USSR 1919 18 minutes B&W Silent with English intertitles
Director: Alexander Razumni for the Mos-Kino Committee
One of a series of short Bolshevik propaganda films, _Comrade Abram_
focuses on Abram Hersh, a young Jewish pogrom survivor who became a
factory worker and organizer in Moscow and eventually rose to
leadership in the Red Army. This short emphasizes Hersh's suffering
and heroism as both worker and Jew, and promotes solidarity over
* _His Excellency_ (aka Seeds of Freedom/Yevo Prevoshoditelstvo)
USSR 1928 76 minutes B&W Silent with English intertitles (Incomplete:
missing one reel)
Director: Grigori Roshal
According to Director Roshel, the subject matter of this film was so
delicate that the Soviet Commissar of Enlightenment oversaw
production of this film personally. The film is based on the life of
Hirsch Lekert, a shoemaker and militant Jewish Labor Bund member, who
attempted to assassinate the Vilna governor in 1902 to avenge the
flogging of workers who participated in a May Day rally. Although
the film was intended "as a tract against individualism,...a greater
emphasis is placed on class struggle within the Jewish community."
Bourgeois Jewish Zionists find themselves pitted against fellow
Jewish proletariats and the government.
_His Excellency_ was the first Soviet-Jewish film to be produced
after a demand by the Central Committee's Department for Agitprop
that fictional films be made "...in a way that an be appreciated by
millions." In the tradition of brilliant Soviet directors Eisenstein
and Pudovkin, _His Excellency_ features stylized cinematography and
stars Leonid Leonidov, a star of the Moscow Art Theater, and in a
small part, Nikolai Cherkasov, who would later play the lead roles in
Eisenstein's _Alexander Nevsky_ and _Ivan the Terrible_. With J.
Untershlak and Tamara Edelheim as Hirsh and Rivele Lekert, and the
Moscow Art Theater's Leonid Leonidov as both the Tsar's governor and
the community's rabbi.
* _Jewish Luck_ (Yevreiskoye Schastye / Menakhem Mendl)
USSR 1925 100 minutes B&W Silent with English intertitles (Russian
intertitles also available)
Director: Alexander Granovsky
Assistant Director: Grigori Gricher-Cherikover
Based on the Menakhem Mendl stories by Sholem Aleichem
Cinematography: Eduard Tissé, Vasili Khvatov
Original Russian intertitles: Issac Babel
Cast: Solomon Mikhoels, Tamara Edelheim, T. Khazak, M. Goldblat, Y.
Shidlo, I. Rogaler, S. Epstein, R. Imenitove
_Jewish Luck_ was among the first Soviet Yiddish films to be released
in the US during the 1920s. Based on Sholem Aleichem's series of
stories featuring the character Menakhem Mendl, _Jewish Luck_
revolves around the daydreaming entrepreneur Menakhem Mendl who
specializes in doomed strike-it-rich schemes. Despite Jewish
oppression by Tsarist Russia, Menakhem Mendl continues to pursue his
dreams and his continued persistence transforms him from schlemiel to
hero as the film uncovers the tragic underpinnings of Sholem
Aleichem's comic tales. Notes _Village Voice_ critic Georgia Brown,
"The movie's best intertitle, translated from Isaac Babel's Russian:
`What can you do when there is nothing to do?'"
A dramatized version of the Menkhem Mendl stories was first staged by
the Moscow Yiddish State Theater, under the direction of Alexander
Granovsky, who later made this silent film. _Jewish Luck_ features
some of the finest artistic talents of Soviet Jewry during this
period. It has been speculated that the cinematography done by
Eduard Tissé in _Jewish Luck_ inspired the filming of particular
scenes in one of his later projects, Sergei Eisenstein's _The
Battleship Potemkin_. The original Russian intertitles were written
by Soviet Jewish writer Isaac Babel, who later became a victim of the
Stalinist purges in the late 1930s.
* _Laughter Through Tears_ (aka Through Tears/Skvoz Slezy)
USSR 1928 92 minutes B&W Silent with English intertitles
Director: Grigori Gricher-Cherikover
Like Sholem Aleichem, on whose "Motl Peysi, the Cantor's Son" and
"The Enchanted Tailor" stories _Laughter Through Tears_ is based,
director Gricher leavens pathos with humor in his earthy portrait of
prerevolutionary shtetl life. Motl's father dies, leaving him to
survive on his own in a changing world while the tailor Shimen-Elye
buys a she-goat which mysteriously changes gender each time its new
owner stops at the inn between Kozodoyevka, where he purchased the
creature, and Zlodyevke, where he lives. In accord with
then-official policy, director Gricher emphasizes the poverty and
repression of Jews in Czarist Russia. He capitalizes on the skills
of the Moscow Art Theater's actors through close attention to facial
expression and gesture.
* _Our Children_ (Unzere Kinder)
Poland 1948 68 minutes B&W Yiddish with NEW English subtitles
Directors: Natan Gross and Shaul Goskind
Cast: Nusia Gold, Shimon Dzigan, Yisroel Shumacher, Z. Skrzeszewska,
N. Kareni, R. Stolarska, H. Kestin, Y. Videcki, A. Daniewicz, N.
Meisler, I. Glantz, G. Czifdar. The Children: S. Goldbrenner, B.
Grinspan, M. Tauman, I. Greenberg, S. Redlich, E. Zalkind, S. Koczer,
C. Pretter, V. Lason
_Our Children_ "is not only among the first films about the
Holocaust, it is also the first to critique its representation" (J.
Hoberman, _Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds_). In
this, Poland's last Yiddish feature, comedy duo Dzigan and Shumacher
play all the parts in a Sholem Aleichem story for an audience of
children who survived the Holocaust. But the children outdo the
performers when they exchange roles and demonstrate the healing,
liberating powers of song, dance and storytelling. With children
from the JDC-supported Helenowek Colony.
* _The Return of Nathan Becker_ (Nosn Beker Fort Aheym)
USSR 1932 85 minutes B&W Yiddish and Russian with NEW English subtitles
Directors: Boris Shpis, Rokhl M. Milman for Belgoskino
Cast: Boris Babochkin, David Guttman, Solomon Mikhoels, Elena
Kashnitzkaya, V. Yablonski
The only Russian-Yiddish sound film produced in the Soviet Union,
_The Return of Nathan Becker_ glorifies Soviet industrial
productivity as it denigrates American capitalism and assimilation.
Famed Yiddish author and poet Peretz Markish wrote the screenplay for
this film about bricklayer Nathan Becker who returns home to Russia
after twenty years in America. The film depicts the shtetl way of
life as primitive and grotesque and promotes a shift away from
traditional Jewish values, reflecting the government's determined
effort to reduce Jewish culture to "Communist in content and Yiddish
in form only." Neither Markish nor actor Solomon Mikhoels (who was
also director of the Moscow Yiddish State Theater) survived the
* _Uncle Moses_
USA 1932 87 minutes B&W Yiddish with NEW English subtitles
Directors: Sidney Goldin and Aubrey Scotto
Based on the novel by Sholem Asch
Cast: Maurice Schwartz, Rubin Goldberg, Judith Abarbanel, Zvee Scooler
When poverty and persecution compel his Polish landsmen to leave
their shtetl, "Uncle" Moses, the crude and lusty former butcher,
welcomes them to the promised land of his Lower East Side clothing
factory. A master in the harsh new American system, with its
fourteen-hour workday, Moses attempts to reconstruct the lost harmony
of the shtetl community in the paternalistic order of his
sweatshop...."[This is] the first Yiddish talkie engaged directly
[in] the progressive currents of the day, political and aesthetic"
(J. Hoberman, _Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds_).
_Uncle Moses_ stands as one of the finest examples of Yiddish cinema
and is unique in its portrayal of a despotic Jewish factory boss who
takes pleasure in seeing the "tables turned" by employing the former
leaders and highly respected men of his shtetl as sweatshop tailors.
Uncle Moses is a harsh man who uses his wealth and power to fight
against unionization of his shop (by a young idealistic Jew) and
manipulate women, especially the daughters of his workers.
_Uncle Moses_ "is a symphony of contradictions, which [Yiddish Art
Theater founder] Schwartz orchestrates brilliantly" (Richard Corliss,
* _Yosl Cutler and His Puppets_
USA 1935 18 minutes Yiddish with NEW English subtitles
This film is a performance of one of Yosl Cutler's solo puppet shows.
A multi-talented artist, writer, poet, and Yiddish Art Theater
designer, Cutler is probably best known as the cartoonist for the
Jewish communist newspaper, the _Freiheit_. These fanciful and
slightly surreal sketches preserve his work with the marionettes he
designed, built and brought to life.
* Calendars of Events in Columbus:
<http://www.freepress.org/calendar.php>, & <http://www.cpanews.org/>
* Student International Forum: <http://www.osu.edu/students/sif/>
* Committee for Justice in Palestine: <http://www.osudivest.org/>
* Al-Awda-Ohio: <http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Al-Awda-Ohio>
* Solidarity: <http://solidarity.igc.org/>
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