Yiddish Theater: A Love Story (2006)
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Between the late '30s and 2006, the number of Yiddish stage theaters in the Big Apple sadly dwindled from twelve to one. Two of the last remaining institutions were the Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre, sustained for many years by Holocaust survivor Zypora Spaisman (1916-2002), and Spaisman's last remaining stage ensemble, the Yiddish Public Theatre. With his documentary Yiddish Theater: A Love Story, director Dan Katzir visits Spaisman in the final few years of her life, when the determined nonagenarian and her colleagues at the Yiddish Public put forth a concerted effort to find a theatrical venue in which to mount their production of Peretz Hirschbein's 1916 play +The Green Fields. Katzir divides his documentary into eight portions that introduce the audience to the said ensemble's elderly performers, as well as the younger participants, who express great determination to keep yiddishkeit alive. Above all else, the work provides an enduring biographical portrait of Spaisman and reveals the extent to which she linked Yiddish theater to linguistic and cultural preservation. Interviewees include such Yiddish theatrical legends as Felix Fibich, Seymour Rechzeit, Zalmen Mlotek, and Shifra Lerer. … More
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Critic Reviews for Yiddish Theater: A Love Story
Intriguing and entertaining despite some rough edges, Dan Katzir's documentary profits immeasurably from the ancient Spaisman's genuine charisma.
If you end up kvelling for these performers, the doc has served its purpose.
Given its origins, it's not surprising that Yiddish Theater: A Love Story has a catch-as-catch-can feeling to it. But nothing can take away from the flavor of being caught up in the battles and dreams of a formidable group of people.
Although the film's highly personal approach ultimately pays off in terms of heartfelt emotion -- particularly at its bittersweet conclusion -- it's hard not to wish that its focus was not quite so narrow.
Filmed in real time during the freezing winter of 2000, Yiddish Theater: A Love Story tracks eight days in the failing life of the Yiddish Public Theater.
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