A first trailer has been unveiled for Leandro Koch and Paloma Schachmann’s documentary “The Klezmer Project,” which will have its world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival’s Encounters strand.

The documentary follows Argentinian cameraman Leandro who makes a living from filming Jewish weddings. At one of his jobs, he falls in love with Paloma, the clarinetist of the Klezmer band. To seduce her he pretends to be shooting a documentary film about traditional Yiddish folk music. What Leandro does not know is that his “fake” film project will take him on an unscripted journey throughout Eastern Europe in search of the last remaining Klezmer melodies.

The filmmakers, who are front and center in the film, are both grandchildren of Jewish immigrants who grew up hearing stories from their grandparents that spoke of a Judaism that was nothing like the
one they knew.

“At first, it seemed to us that those stories were simply a romanticization of the past. But when we began the research for this documentary about klezmer music, we discovered that there was something more,” Koch and Schachmann said in their directors’ statement.

The filmmakers said that although 75% of the Jewish population that founded the state of Israel was Yiddish-speaking, Hebrew was adopted as the official language. “Along with this decision, a persecution and attempted banning of the Yiddish language and all the culture that was generated in that language began: theater, literature, poetry, journalism and music,” the directors said.

“The first question that arose during the investigation was: why would the Jewish people, which is characterized by promoting historical memory and preserving its own history, decide to forget such a large part of its own identity?,” asked the directors who attempt to answer the question in the film.

Part of the film is shot in Ukraine, a focus of this year’s Berlinale. “We knew from the first moment that we had to film in Ukraine, because historically it is a territory that was inhabited by Jews, where they developed their culture and traditions for years. In Ukraine, two of the greatest movements in Jewish history took place: the Enlightenment and Hasidism, both movements that were reflected in their music. There, as in the entire territory known as Yiddishland, there was a Judaism that mixed with its surroundings and coexisted peacefully with the cultures that surrounded it, mutually influencing their traditions between each other,” the directors said.

“The Klezmer Project,” produced by Austria’s Nabis Filmgroup and Argentina’s Nevada Cine, premieres Feb. 23. Films Boutique is handling world sales.

Watch the trailer here: