A Sharmill Films (Australia) release of an Australian Film Finance Corp. presentation of an Amber Films P/L production, in association with Film Victoria , Australian Broadcasting Corp. Produced by Monique Schwarz. Co-producers, Debra Annear, Susan Weis.
Directed by Monique Schwarz. Screenplay, Eddie Moses, Schwarz, based on an idea by Natalie Miller. Camera (Cinevex color), Laslo Baranyai; additional camera, Nigel Buesst; editor, Uri Mizrahi; music, Martin Friedel; production design/costumes, Sarah Stollman; sound, Lloyd Carrick, Mark Tarpey, Lanrie Robinson. Reviewed at Atlab screening room, Sydney, July 10, 1996. Running time: 70 MIN.
Mother Amanda Sandilands Father Greg Ulfan Child Jonathan Goldberg Singer Freydi Mrocki
With: Julie Factor, Jean Holkner, Amirah Inglis, Miriam Kuna, Rachel Levita, Sam Lipski, Bernard Rechter, Pinchus Ringelblum, Hilary Rubinstein, Solomon Pose , Victor Smorgon, Arnold Zable.
This gentle, informative documentary deals with the experiences and traditions of Melbourne’s Jewish community before, during and after World War II. Part talking heads, part dramatic re-enactment, part home movie, pic achieves its modest aims with almost complete success, and should find a niche audience at Jewish-related fests, specialized venues for docus and Euro TV networks. Film has had limited theatrical release in Australia.
Filmmaker Monique Schwarz homes in on the inner-city suburb of Carlton, which today is a point of convergence for Melbourne’s racially mixed cafe society but which 60 or 70 years ago was the center of Australia’s most prominent Jewish community. As one of the dozen or so interviewees featured in the film notes, Australia was seen as “a safe harbor, an all-important breathing space” for Jews seeking a new life in a new world.
Six Jewish convicts were transported to Australia on the First Fleet at the beginning of the 19th century, but in subsequent years the Jews who came Down Under of their own free will were mostly from Britain and did not emphasize their Jewishness. They even considered the word “Jew” pejorative, and preferred to be described as “Hebrews” or “Israelites.” Many of them gravitated to Carlton , where they kept their language, religion and culture alive but at the same time integrated into the society of their adopted country.
Many of the Eastern European refugees who flocked to Australia after the horrors of World War II also settled in Carlton, creating friction with established Jews who saw them as “different” and foreign.
The story of Carlton’s Jewish community is told by the interviewees, of whom the most prominent is journalist Sam Lipski, who points out that making traditional life meaningful to the new generations of Australian Jews is becoming increasingly difficult.
Re-enacted scenes, depicting a migrant family arriving in Melbourne and settling in, are beautifully handled but somewhat irrelevant. Pic is punctuated by haunting footage in which singer Freydi Mrocki performs achingly beautiful Yiddish songs.
This is a specialized effort, but it’s one that will entrance many with its tender dissection of traditions and lifestyles that seem to be slowly disappearing. [7mDavid Stratton[22;27m