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.