A Film by: Racheli Schwartz
(Israel, 2002, 54 Minutes, Color, Hebrew, English subtitles)
The Jews used many ways to struggle against the Nazi system. One way, perhaps the most heroic and least familiar, was the cultural struggle. Against the threat of impending death, the horrors of daily existence and in the most impossible conditions, a life full of rich, creative and spiritual culture was established.
The film is set in Ponar, the Vilna ghetto, during the years 1940 to 1943 and tells the amazing story of the song contest that was held in the ghetto in the year 1943, a few months before it was destroyed.
The film focuses on one particular song and its composer, an 11 year old boy named Alek Wolkovsky. The song is called Ponar in Hebrew, “Shtilar Shtilar” (quietly) in Yiddish. The words of the song, which tell of the gloom and doom that had befallen Vilna, were turned into a lullaby so that the Nazis would not be able to understand.
Sixty years later, the director, Racheli Schwartz, found the child – composer, Alexander Tamir, who had since become a professor of music and a renowned pianist.
The film accompanies Alexander on his return, 60 years later, to his hometown.
The emotional and moving journey to the past exposes how culture and art overcame the destruction, and reaches a peak when Alex gets on to that very same stage, in the Jewish theater in the ghetto. He plays the song that won the competition, which has almost become an anthem.
A young Israeli singer, who is the same age as the singers who prepared for the competition in 1943 but were killed before they could actually compete, accompanies Alexander Tamir’s music.
AWARDS, FESTIVALS & SCREENINGS
• Calgary Jewish Film Festival 2007