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This Year in Czernowitz

Vet German docmeister Volker Koepp's "This Year in Czernowitz" is a companion piece to his 1999 pic "Herr Zwilling and Frau Zuckerman," which centered on two of the last surviving Jews in the titular Ukrainian city. New docu rounds up a multinational group of those who'd escaped the city's Nazi era, or are descended from same.

Vet German docmeister Volker Koepp’s “This Year in Czernowitz” is a companion piece to his 1999 pic “Herr Zwilling and Frau Zuckerman,” which centered on two of the last surviving Jews in the titular Ukrainian city. New docu rounds up a multinational group of those who’d escaped the city’s Nazi era, or are descended from same. More diffuse and thus a bit less poignant, pic is still a graceful, contemplatively paced item that will attract fests and select broadcasters.

Controlled in turn by Austria, Romania and Russia, Czernowitz was once a cultural (and highly cultured) melting pot with a Jewish population comprising about half its total 150,000. These days, it’s quieter, smaller, less diverse, and again a source for exodus–though now for economic rather than political reasons. Among those journeying back to explore their roots and visit family burial sites are the U.S.-based writer Norman Manea, actor Harvey Keitel (whose segs are the least engaging), a Berlin cellist, and two middle-aged Viennese sisters. Their visits are variably painful or pleasant, provoking meditation on the concepts of home, native language and belonging. Handsome lensing tops accomplished tech package.

This Year in Czernowitz

Germany

  • Production: A Vineta Film production. Produced by Barbara Frankenstein. Executive producers, Peter Zach, Fritz Hartthaler, Thomas Lorenz. Directed by Volker Koepp.
  • Crew: Camera (color), Thomas Pienert, Susanna Schule; editor, Angelika Arnold. Reviewed at Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, San Francisco, Jan. 11, 2005. English, German and Ukrainian dialogue. Running time: 130 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Ria Gold, Harvey Keitel, Tatjana Kloubert, Norman Manea, Evelyn Mayer, Katja Rainer, Johann Schlamp, Gabriele Weissmann, Eduard Weissmann.
  • Music By: