Descendant Of Holocaust Survivor Unearths Family Skeletons In Roots Documentary
Although Yael Reuveny was born inIsrael35 years after the end of World War II, her formative years were nevertheless substantially shaped by events that had transpired half a world away during the Holocaust. For, she and her mother had both been raised around an embittered concentration camp survivor who had never been able to forgive the Nazis.
After all, her grandmother Michla’s entire family had perished in a death camp in German occupied Poland, or at least so she thought. However, there had been a rumor that her brother Feiv’ke might have survived; but Michla lost hope when he failed to materialize at a rendezvous at the Lodztrain station that had been arranged by an intermediary.
So, Michla made her way to Tel Aviv where, despite being plagued by nightmares, she would marry and have three kids. Unfortunately, she was also widowed at a young age, and eventually went to her grave still harboring a grudge againstGermany.
Meanwhile, her brother changed his name to Peter Schwarz, and married a German gentile with whom he had three children. And not only did he hide the fact that he was Jewish from his offspring, but he continued to live in Schlieben, the town where he’d been imprisoned in a Nazi death camp.
When Ms. Reuveny caught wind of the existence of another branch of her family tree, she became obsessed with tracking down her long-lost relatives. That five-year quest is the focus of Farewell, Herr Schwarz, a bittersweet documentary detailing an attempt to reconcile a pair of siblings’ polar opposite response to the Holocaust.
After examining the divergent behavior of siblings Michla and Peter, director Reuveny devotes attention to how the pair’s second and third generations have adjusted to life. It is quite a surprise to learn that Peter’s grandson Stephan’s dream has been to move to Israel ever since learning that he is a quarter Jewish. And by contrast, filmmaker/narrator Reuveny opts to settle inEurope, feeling perfectly at home there upon completion of her labor of love.
A fascinating, generations-spanning genealogical journey!
Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew, German and English with subtitles
Running time: 101 minutes
The Search For General Tso
IFC Films/Sundance Selects
Culinary Documentary Explores Derivation Of Delectable Chinese Dish
General Tso‘s Chicken is the most popular takeout dish ordered by American diners. But who was General Tso? Was he actually a military hero, or was his title merely honorary, à la that of “Colonel” Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame?
Was he even the originator of the delectable entrée that bears his name, or was the ingenious recipe created by his wife or a cook? What are its ingredients? When was it introduced to the United States? Why has it proved so popular with the American palate? And are the Chinese as fond of the sweet and spicy fried fare?
These are among the intriguing questions posed by The Search For GeneralTso, a culinary documentary any Chinese food lover is likely to find fascinating. The picture was written and directed by its host/narrator, Ian Cheney, whose dogged, globe-spanning quest for answers led from Brooklyn to Asia and back around the U.S.
Along the way, we learn that there was, indeed, a General Tso, a legend who distinguished himself on the battlefield in the 19thcentury towards the end of the Qing Dynasty. However, his clueless descendants have no idea how their esteemed ancestor came to be associated with the unfamiliar dish, since it is a very modern invention traceable toTaiwanin the 1960s. Without ever being introduced to mainlandChina, it crossed the Pacific Ocean a decade or so later, taking the States by storm, starting withSan Francisco.
Besides unearthing these and other intriguing tidbits, intrepid Cheney devotes his time to tracking down and interviewing chefs claiming to be the pioneer who first put General Tso’s on the menu. Of course, he also devours many mouth-watering morsels of the honey-glazed chicken chunks, too, which is exactly what you’ll be craving as the closing credits roll.
The cinematic equivalent of an entertaining encyclopedic entry about the most irresistible offering on today’s Chinese takeout menu!
Excellent (4 stars)
In English and Mandarin with subtitles
Running time: 72 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening January 9, 2015
Inherent Vice (R for profanity, violence, sexuality and graphic nudity) Five-time Oscar-nominee Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights and Magnolia) wrote and directed this adaptation of the Thomas Pynchon best-seller of the same name about a private eye’s (Joaquin Phoenix) attempt to solve the mysterious disappearance of an ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) and her billionaire boyfriend (Eric Roberts). Ensemble cast includes Owen Wilson, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, Maya Rudolph, Benicio del Toro and Jena Malone.
Selma (PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and brief profanity) Civil Rights Era saga, directed by Ava DuVernay, chronicling the historic march led by Dr. Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) credited with pressuring Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. With CarmenEjogo,Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Wilkinson, Tim Roth, Martin Sheen, Giovanni Ribisi, Common and Oprah.
Taken 3 (PG-13 for brief profanity and intense violence) Third installment in the frenetic franchise finds retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) on the run from the authorities while trying to clear his name after being unfairly accused of murdering his wife (Famke Janssen). Co-starring Maggie Grace,Forest Whitaker, Jonny Weston and Dougray Scott.
The World Made Straight (R for violence, drug use, sexual references and profanity) Adaptation of the Ron Rash novel of the same name, set in the ’70s, about a troubled young man (Jeremy Irvine) eager to escape a rural Appalachian community stained by the legacy of a Civil War massacre. With Haley Joel Osment, Minka Kelly and Steve Earle.
Beloved Sisters (Unrated) Incestuous romance drama about a couple of aristocratic siblings (Hannah Herzsprung and Henriette Confurius) who opt to share when they both fall in love with poet, philosopher and playwright Friedrich Schiller (Florian Stetter). With Claudia Messner, Ronald Zehrfeld and Maja Maranow. (In German and French with subtitles)
Black November (Unrated) Eco-thriller about a Nigerian community that takes on corrupt politicians and a multinational oil corporation in order to protect itself from spills and over-drilling. With Mickey Rourke, Wyclef Jean, Anne Heche, Kim Basinger and Akon.
Dark Summer (Unrated) Haunted house horror flick about a home alone teenager (Keir Gilchrist) who finds himself spooked by a plethora of paranormal phenomena while grounded for cyber-stalking a classmate (Grace Phipps) he has a crush on. With Maestro Harrell, Peter Stormare and Stella Maeve.
It’s All So Quiet (Unrated) Poignant character study about a closeted farmer’s (Jeroen Willens) struggle with his sexual identity and the meaning of life while caring for his bedridden father (Henri Garcin). Cast includes Wim Opbrouck, Martijn Lakemeier and Lies Visschedijk. (In Dutch with subtitles)
Ode To My Father (Unrated) Coming-of-age saga revolving around a Korean War refugee’s (Jeong-min Hwang) attempt to provide for his mother (Young-nam Jang) and younger siblings as promised his dearly-departed dad. With Yunjin Kim, Dal-su Oh and Mi-ran Ra. (In Korean with subtitles)
Predestination (R for violence, profanity, nudity and sexuality) Ethan Hawke stars in this sci-fi thriller loosely based on All You Zombies, the Robert Heinlein short story about a bartender who travels back in time to thwart a terrorist attack. Support cast includes Noah Taylor, Sarah Snook and Elise Jansen.
Preservation (Unrated) Hunters become the game horror flick about a woman (Wrenn Schmidt) whose hunting trip in the woods with her husband (Aaron Staton) and brother (Pablo Schreiber) turns into a harrowing nightmare when they awaken to find their belongings stolen and their foreheads ominously marked with a big “X.” With Cody Saintgnue, Nick Saso and Michael Chacon.
Valley Of Saints (Unrated) Romance drama, set in Kashmir, about a civil war fugitive (Gulzar Ahmed Bhat) who takes temporary refuge at a seaside village only to become torn between a new life and a new love when he falls for a mysterious scientist (Neelofar Hamid) studying the lake’s pollution levels. Featuring Mohammed Afzal. (In Kashmiri with subtitles)