Montreal World Film Festival screens Yiddish: A Tale of Survival

You don’t have to be Jewish to love Yiddish.

After a successful launch of “Yiddish: a tale of survival” at the New York City International Film Festival, the documentary will now be screened at the Montreal World film festival (MFF).

The resilience of Yiddish since the Holocaust which wiped out six million potential Yiddish speakers is revealed by exploring the lives and careers of three Yiddish performers. The first, Shmuel Atzmon, an Israeli actor who at the age of fifty, after a lifetime spent in the Hebrew Theatre in Israel, founded the Yiddishpiel  Repertory Theater in Tel Aviv. The second, Bryna Wasserman, heir to the legacy of her mother, Dora Wasserman who championed Yiddish Theatre in Montreal, has continued her mother’s legacy and shepherded it into the twenty-first century, by commissioning new Yiddish plays, and also initiating the International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. And lastly, we meet singer and actress Milena Kartowski, who at the young age of 23 has discovered Yiddish and is helping to bring it to a new generation.

The film explores the paths that brought each artist to Yiddish and how it has shaped their lives. In the words of one reviewer, “The film is deeply moving and surprisingly entertaining. Watching it, one hears the sounds of the almost forgotten language of Yiddish from the echoes of Sholem Aleichem to the young people’s YaYa group performance, Raisins and Almonds. We are reminded of the legacy Montreal’s Jewish community and of Yiddish culture worldwide.”

This subject is particularly poignant in Quebec where awareness of the vulnerability of culture and language is so strong.

The film will be screened twice at the Montreal World Film Festival:

Thursday, August 29, 7:30 pm and Sunday, September 1st at 10am in the Quartier Latin Cinema: Salle 15

Tickets can be acquired from the MFWW Website

There will be a Q&A after the screening with Abigail Hirsch, the filmaker and Bryna Wasserman will be in attendance at the Sunday Morning screening.

Yiddish: a tale of survival

Yiddish: A Tale of Survival, is a documentary about Yiddish after the Holocaust. It focuses on three generations of Yiddish performers: Shmuel Atzmon, Bryna Wasserman and Milena Kartowski, and examines the state of Yiddish in the 21st century. Here is the trailer:

Yiddish was the main spoken and literary language of Northern European Jews from France to Russia for several hundred years. During the Holocaust a majority of the world’s Yiddish speakers were annihilated. As a result, the Yiddish culture – language, literature, and theatre was nearly destroyed, leaving many wondering whether Yiddish had any future at all.

Twenty-five years ago, Shmuel Atzmon, a holocaust survivor, started a Yiddish Repertory theatre in Israel. He took young Hebrew speaking actors and taught them the Yiddish language, its music and culture. There is now a first rate Yiddish Repertory Theatre in Tel Aviv called Yiddishspiel.

Arriving in Canada in 1950 with two young daughters, Dora Wasserman, succeeded in creating a Yiddish theatre troupe made up of students and their parents, many Holocaust survivors. Her work has been carried on by her daughter Bryna Wasserman, who recently presided over the fiftieth anniversary of the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Troupe by initiating the first ever International Yiddish Theatre Festival in Montreal. Milena Kartowski, a twenty-three year old student of dance, jazz, and opera, from Paris, and a grand daughter of Holocaust survivors, has recently discovered the Yiddish language and its attendant culture. She has fallen in love with Yiddish theatre and song. Milena not only understands the essence of Yiddish culture but also the importance of preserving a culture that is on the verge of extinction.

Yiddish Poster

About me:
 
My name is Abigail Hirsch. I was born into a Jewish family that survived the Holocaust in Europe. I rediscovered the beauty and depth of the Yiddish theatre through the International Yiddish Theatre Festival that was held in Montreal in 2009, and was inspired to initiate this documentary. Everywhere I went in Israel, the US and Canada and shared this project, people of all languages, Jews and non-Jews were excited about it.
 
Update 1/10/2013:
 

We have completed the film and have been submitting the film to Festivals and distributors and potential sponsors.  We held a press screening at McGill University in Montreal on December 10, 2012, Human Rights Day and got some very favorable press coverage. Pierre Landry interviewed me on the CBC Home Run radio show on Dec. 10:  Janice Arnold published a review in the Canadian Jewish News.

http://www.cjnews.com/arts/doc-looks-challenge-preserving-yiddish-theatre

A hartzigen dank (a heartfelt thank-you) to everyone who has donated to help fund this film!  Will keep you all posted on future screenings and how to access the film.

The film has been self-funded and any donations are gratefully appreciated.


Sincerely,

Abigail Hirsch