Co-producers, Frank Roumen, Vera Lastuvkova.
Directed, written by Ilona Ziok. Camera (color/B&W), Jacek Blawut, Heiko Merten, Aicke Fricke, Antonin Danhil; editors, Christina Graff, Silke Regele, Erik Mischijew. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 13, 1999. German, English and Czech dialogue. Running time: 70 MIN.
Shedding fresh light on a tragic chapter of the Holocaust, this melancholy docu blends new interview material, vintage film and audio clips and contempo cabaret performances to tell the sad tale of Jewish entertainer Kurt Gerron, who went from being the toast of Berlin to director of the title club at Theresienstadt (“concentration camp for celebrities”) before being shipped to his fate at Auschwitz. Bittersweet work is sure to be in demand at Jewish fests and with pubcasters looking for a bleak yet unique mix of education and entertainment.
The jolly Gerron made more than 70 films, working with a who’s who of German talent in the ’20s. But his first love was cabaret (he sang the first public performance of “Moritat of Mack the Knife” in 1928), so when sent to a Dutch camp in 1943, after years of working in exile, he was spared deportation in exchange for entertaining — a deal he tragically believed would eventually free him. Laced with rueful period songs from a half-dozen acts and recollections from a dozen surviving peers, pic lovingly paints Gerron as a naive trouper, performing until the very end.