The San Diego International Hybrid Jewish Film Festival kicks off this Wednesday
Speaker 1: (00:00)
The San Diego International Jewish Film Festival returns this Wednesday with in-person and virtual screenings. One of the opening films is the documentary that will remain, which looks at the Yiddish poetry of Aron Skaer. The film uses his granddaughter as a gateway to a very intimate portrait of the KP vs Arts journalist. Beth Amando talks with the movies. Co-directors Emily Felder and Krista P Whitney,
Speaker 2: (00:29)
Krista, to start, tell us a bit about the Yiddish book center and the role it played in making this movie. Yeah, well,
Speaker 3: (00:38)
That’s an excellent question. Thus, the Yiddish Book Center is primarily a non-profit organization committed to the preservation and promotion of modern Yiddish and Jewish culture. And, uh, the movie really comes straight out of the Yiddish Book Center, Emily and I were both working at the Yiddish Book Center when we started working on this movie. I’m still working there. And so the Yiddish Book Center is the producer of the film, specifically the Yiddish Book, the center’s Wexler Oral History Project, which is a growing collection of in-depth videos, oral histories about Yiddish language and culture. now we live
Speaker 2: (01:21)
In today’s culture where people seem to only care about the things that immediately surround them and the very present and recent. So talk a bit about the challenges of retaining some of these elements of Yiddish culture, uh, in this kind of environment
Speaker 3: (01:42)
The spirit of everyday life is, uh, looking at both the past and how it directly influences the present in terms of Yiddish language and culture, but Yiddish culture. This is something that there wasn’t a lot of documentation online. You know, nowadays people think everything is on Google. It’s all online and, um, things that aren’t googleable are considered non-existent by some people, but of course that’s not true. Thus, the work of the Yiddish bookstore becomes partly a digital address of Yid culture. You can find on the Yiddish book, center site, all kinds of historical archives. The Yiddish Book Center has digitized over 11,000 Yiddish books. So I think the job of me and my colleagues and really filmmakers and culture workers in this space is to create awareness of the importance and, uh, to generate interest in this culture that is really a whole world,
Speaker 2: (02:55)
Emily, which will remain, focuses in particular on a Yiddish poet and his granddaughter. And it’s not just about him, but also about that kind of family relationship. How did you get involved in this project and what was important for you in its structuring
Speaker 4: (03:15)
Just a bit of my journey. I studied anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, and I knew I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker, but I really wanted a foundation in the social sciences and humanities. So I was incredibly drawn to historical archeology and visual ethnography, which basically means how we access the past and how we reconstruct historical narratives with objects and landscapes in the present. So this movie was really a perfect intersection. I really fell in love with the project, the Yiddish language, I’m a Jewish woman. So it really made me reconnect with a whole world that I really knew nothing about. So started as a temporary role quickly turned into this really important position, both professionally and personally, regarding your question of how to approach editing and that particular story that will stick. It was truly emotional to sift through some of the most expensive material and have to choose which image is both appropriate and evocative without being exploitative.
Speaker 4: (04:28)
So even though this movie is about Sr, I didn’t want to paint him as a brilliant hero or a main character whose survival was more dramatically worth examining as if he risked more or faced greater odds than the 6 other millions of Jews who perished. I wanted to center it. And I think Christo would agree. We wanted to center him as an artist, as well as a ghetto supporter, who is lucky enough to escape. So yes, it really is a dramatic story and his poetry is provocative, but he probably always found refuge in his poetry. And that’s kind of the goal of this film, you know, in the ghetto, it became his ultimate artistic sanctuary. And so it was just a continuation of his innate creative expression. And so, in the editing room, painting this kind of PO portrait of a person in the context of the Holocaust, uh, was hard enough. And then we had to integrate how Hadas is trying to access his grandfather, how, you know, his story and how anyone could make sense of the Holocaust. So it was an emotional challenge, a technical challenge, a narrative challenge, but I think our movie really blossomed into this compelling call and response between goof lovers and Hadas. It wasn’t just about him.
Speaker 2: (05:53)
And how would you describe his poetry for someone who is not
Speaker 3: (05:56)
Familiar with this, he is portrayed by, by Hadas, in the film as a nature poet and by other literary scholars. I mean, there’s a very, uh, a sense of grounding in the natural world. He was born in S Morone, but grew up in OMS in Siber. And so in his own account, even in his own account of his artistic life, he talks about how those early images of snow blowing and that landscape just, uh, was a fundamental inspiration for him. And I think you can see that through all of his work, the way he uses metaphor and animates objects, uh, plants and, uh, rocks, even in the landscape. I am not, however, a literary scholar. I studied literature in my baccalaureate. So I think there’s definitely a bit of modernism in there about one thing that I think is interesting for me to learn, uh, with the background in literary studies is that he speaks himself- even how he thought he was very well read in Polish literature and Lithuanian literature. And he didn’t really have a conception of Jewish literature when he started writing. And I think that’s interesting because, because he, he just started, he, you know, he was inspired to start writing and in a way I think it’s hard to attach it to a particular poetic or literary movement. Yeah. Like, like I think EV, every poet’s poetry is really their own, but I think for him, you, you have these, uh, particular influences. I want to thank you both for talking about who will stay. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (07:48)
Thank you. It was Beth. Amando speaking with filmmakers, Emily Felder and Krista P Whitney, who will remain, will meet in person this Thursday, followed by online screenings at the San Diego International Jewish Film Festival.