Review: ‘Ghetto’

Loosely based on actual events, quasi-musical co-prod "Ghetto" plays out how Jews in Vilnius' ghetto in Lithuania briefly reopened a theater to maintain morale and entertain occupying Nazis during WWII. So mawkish, trite and in risibly poor taste that it unwittingly elevates itself into the realm of high camp, English-lingo pic makes the "Springtime for Hitler" spoof in "The Producers" look like "Shoah."

Loosely based on actual events, quasi-musical co-prod “Ghetto” plays out how Jews in Vilnius’ ghetto in Lithuania briefly reopened a theater to maintain morale and entertain occupying Nazis during WWII. So mawkish, trite and in risibly poor taste that it unwittingly elevates itself into the realm of high camp, English-lingo pic makes the “Springtime for Hitler” spoof in “The Producers” look like “Shoah.” Jewish-themed fests desperate for new product may offer sanctuary to pic for theme alone, but distrib prospects are slim-to-nil outside co-producing countries Lithuania and Germany and maybe Israel.

While the plot works in historical figures like the head of Vilnius’ Jewish police Jacob Gens (Heino Ferch, good in patches), pic’s twisted pseudo romance between a perpetually sneering Nazi officer Kittel (Sebastian Hulk) and Jewish opera thrush Haya (Erika Marozsan) must surely be the result of the fervid imagination of scribe Joshua Sobol after one too many viewings of “The Night Porter.” Tragically doomed thesps, ventriloquists, braid-wearing moppets and assorting “oy”-saying Jewish stereotypes fill out the crowded cast of characters while the film works toward an inevitable downbeat ending. Tech package is slick, which makes the whole matzo ball more embarrassing.

Ghetto

Lithuania-Germany

Production

A Seansas (Lithuania)/New Transit Intertainment, Dragon Cine (Germany) production. (International sales: Seansas, Vilnius, Lithuania.) Produced by Audrius Juzenas, Almone Cepiene, Gintautas Dalyda, Giedrius Guntorius, Thees Khlan. Directed by Audrius Juzenas. Screenplay, Joshua Sobol, based on his play.

Crew

Camera (color), Andreas Hofer; editor, Judith-Futar Klahn; music, Anatolijus Senderovas; production designer, Jurij Gigarovic; sound (Dolby), Lars Ginzel. Reviewed at Black Nights Film Fesetival (market), Tallinn, Estonia, Dec. 3, 2005. English dialogue. Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Sebastian Hulk, Heino Ferch, Erika Marozsan, Andrius Zebrauskas, Vytautas Sapranauskas, Alvydas Slepikas, Margarita Ziemelyte.
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