At once a formidable tale of survival, a touching love story and an enduring family saga, “Chuppa: The Wedding Canopy” is an original documentary about the wedding of a Jewish couple half a century after they met and got engaged. Celebrating one family’s struggle to move beyond the pain of the Holocaust, this truly uplifting docu deserves a theatrical release prior to showings in Jewish film festivals, public TV and other venues.
Helma and Benno Schneider met and fell in love as teenagers in the ghetto of Riga, Latvia, in 1942. Despite humiliating traumas and denigrating experiences that would break the spirits of most people, Helma and Benno managed to sustain a relationship that proved nurturing and fulfilling. When their concentration camp was dissolved, the two lived for a year on the run in the Russian forests. By then, they each had lost their entire family, which meant that there were no people to witness a traditional Jewish marriage.
Sascha, the couple’s eldest son (and co-director), recalls how he vowed, and always knew, that one day he would give his parents the proper wedding ceremony they never had. As a culmination of dreams and promises, the chuppa also had impact on the interaction of parents and children and on Sascha’s marriage to his wife, co-director and producer Laurie Zemelman Schneider.
Although the elder couple, now in their 70s, occasionally break out crying (and switch to Yiddish) while recalling Hitler, their matter-of-fact philosophy of life, which is full of humor and wit, is most impressive.
As a testament to the indefatigable human spirit and to the need to come to terms with one’s past — no matter how painful it is –“Chuppa” is one of a kind.