1 L’chaim 1910 (9’20”) dir A. Mietr and K. Ganzer
The first film made that shows Jewish life from the inside. For the first time in cinema Jews were represented as real characters, not stereotypes. Considered to be the “birth” of Jewish cinema.
Based on a Jewish folk song.
Rukhele’s parents make her marry rich Matteus, but she loves poor Shlomo. In two years Rukhl has a child but she can’t forget Shlomo and so she leaves Matteus taking her child with to be with her lover. Matteus starts to drink. Years pass and a beautiful rich woman and child pay a surprise visit to the alcoholic Matteus. After they leave Matteus finds a note from his guests explaining that it was his Rukhele and their daughter. She wanted her daughter to see her father.
2 Sara’s Grief 1913 (13’43”) dir A. Arkatov
The director of this film wrote the screenplay for L’chaim. One of the first Jewish cinema dramas about moral, religious and emotional ethics.
The doctor’s diagnosis for Sara and Isaak changed their lives completely. Unable to have children, Isaak visits his Rabbi who tells his that according to Jewish law, they must divorce. Isaak can’t bear this failure of their marriage. Overcome with grief, he commits suicide. After some time Sara realises that she is pregnant, but there is no comfort for her own torment.
3 Jews and the Land 1927 (17’46”) dir Abram Room
This extraordinay documentary describes Soviet Russia’s attempt to create a colony of collective farms of Jews, in Crimea in the 1920s. It is the only remaining art document of this fascinating period of Jewish (and Soviet) history. The film shows Jews working the land, handling animals, driving tractors! The text was written by a famous Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
4 Against Fathers’ Will (Mabul) 1926 (43’30) dir Evgeny Ivanov-Barkov
Based on Shalom Aleichem’s story, Flow of Blood, this film depicts the participation of Jews in the 1905 Revolution. The first version (Mabul) was banned by the Soviet government because it depicted only rich Jews as revolutionaries. Also the government disliked the depiction of the pogrom, which showed an inhuman side to soviet citizens. This version was also banned for the same reasons, and didn’t get screened during Soviet times. Although of a serious nature, the film contains many comedy elements including a wonderful revolutionary argument on seder night between Kaufmann and his daughter Esfir.
Kaufmann and his neighbour Rosenfeld are sworn enemies. Their children Boris and Esfir are in love.
They both go off to University (in St Petersburg) where Esfir, under the influence of her teacher Anton joins the underground revolutionary movement.
The revolutionary group are betrayed by a comrade. Anton is captured and hanged. and then the Russian police capture her and she is sent to prison. The governmet issue a manifesto to stop further revolutionary activity, and during the struggle the bystander Boris gets injured. Esfir is freed from captivity. Following a terrible pogrom, Kaufmann and Rosenfeld are reconciled, Boris joins the revolution.