Sunday, May 24, 2020

Warsaw: A City Divided

Just a quick note to let you know that you can now watch Warsaw: A City Divided in a couple different ways, including streaming on Amazon. Last fall, on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, I reviewed the film for the Jewish Review of Books. The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest ghetto established by the Nazis and one of the first in Poland, holding over 400,000 Jews, almost 100,000 of whom died inside it.

"Today, only a few scattered pieces of the ghetto walls that imprisoned them still stand, including fragments between properties as well as the sections of the wall that are were part of buildings.
Unlike Auschwitz or Dachau, the Warsaw Ghetto cannot be visited in any meaningful way. And yet, the ghetto looms large in Holocaust memory. The uprising there in 1943 is still the most famous act of modern Jewish resistance. In addition to Yom HaShoah, many Jews, especially those with family connections to the Warsaw Ghetto, observe April 19, the date of the beginning of the uprising, as a sacred day.
Though the movie makes effective use of Nazi archival materials, they never take over the film. Indeed, A City Divided is one of a handful of new documentaries that focus less on describing the crimes of the Nazis and more on the experience of the victims. These films are reshaping not just what we know about the Holocaust, but how we know it. A City Divided also joins A Film Unfinished (2010) and Who Will Write Our History (2018) as a sort of Warsaw Ghetto trilogy. Although they were produced and directed by different teams, all three have archival footage and written documents at their center. Viewers can examine the same “story” through three different lenses—German, Jewish, and Polish.    
There’s a remarkable moment at the end of A City Divided. The Chief Rabbi recalls how one day a resident of the Muranow neighborhood built on top of part of the ghetto came to him for help. “There are spirits in my apartment, can you do something?” Finding restless ghosts at the site of the former ghetto is almost too on the nose. And yet, we often see ghosts because we need to see ghosts."

You can now buy Warsaw: A City Divided on DVD from LOG TV or stream it via Amazon

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Shtumer Shabes Update

Alas, my dream of bringing Shtumer Shabes in front of a live audience is officially on hold for the foreseeable future. As I write this, all of New York theater is dark, a very scary thing for theater artists and lovers.

But if you're interested in learning more about Shtumer Shabes,  allow me to direct your attention to the following:

This week Alex Weiser had me as a guest for one of the YIVO lunchtime livestreams. This was a really fun - and brief! - chat.

One of the things Alex and I talked about was 'Shin is for Shtumer Shabes,' the April 29th livestream program the Shtumer Shabes cast did for the 14th Street Y in lieu of our staged reading. 'Shin is for Shtumer Shabes' was an Orson Welles-inspired show about making Yiddish theater, featuring a couple of very short excerpts of the play, as well as interviews with folks who have been carrying on the Yiddish theater tradition. 

We're all still figuring out these new virtual tools, so I hope you'll forgive the unpolished feel of the show.

And finally, if you haven't read the interview Miryem-Khaye Seigel did with me about the play, you can check it out here at the wonderful Digital Yiddish Theatre Project.