14 June 2012

Die Wohnung/The Flat

On Monday night, I saw the Israeli/German documentary co-production, "Die Wohnung" (or in English, "The Flat").  This film was showing in Berlin as part of the Berlin Jewish Film Festival, and has previously screened at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and has also shown, I believe, at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York (although the producers wonder why the Berlinale, Berlin's top festival, rejected it).  It was an interesting test for my language skills, as the narration is in German, most of the dialogue is in Hebrew, and some is in English (with German subtitles).

It is a very interesting film that begins with the filmmaker, Arnon Goldfinger, and his family cleaning out his recently deceased grandmother's apartment in a nice neighbourhood in Tel Aviv.  One of the things that become clear early on is that his grandparents, the Tuchlers, despite living for 60-70 years in Israel, were still very much the German Jews that left Berlin in 1936. 

The scene was similar to what my own family went through recently, cleaning out my grandfather's house after he passed away.  However, my grandfather was in no position to accumulate possessions before coming to Canada the way the Tuchlers were.  Goldfinger, his mother, and his cousins went through the grandmother's large collections of shoes, handbags, and gloves,* before getting to the shelves of German books.

Eventually, it was on to the boxes of receipts, letters, and newspaper clippings.  It was here that the film becomes more than just a home movie.  Discovered amongst the clippings was a news story from a Nazi Propoganda newspaper that discussed a Nazi officer, von Mildenstein, going to Palestine.  With von Mildenstein and his wife on their travels were the filmmaker's grandparents. 

Goldfinger then delves deeper and deeper into this mystery of how his grandparents's lives could be so entwined with those of a Nazi officer.  What he uncovers is not only a riveting story from the past that complicates everything we are told about the Holocaust -- that the Nazis were evil murderers, and the Jews were mild-mannered victims -- but also people's ability to delude themselves into believing what they want to believe, and to avoid asking difficult questions.

It is a powerful film that tries to understand the complexity of human friendships as well as the power of denial and self-delusion.


* Think classy gloves, not winter gloves.

13 June 2012

And now, Klezmer (sort of)

As many of you devoted readers know, the title of this blog is "Adventures in Klezmer."  Many of you have also put up with my general rants about baseball, traveling, and whatever else popped into my head that I thought was blog-worthy. 

Well, this summer, I have a few concerts booked here in Germany and the Klezmer (sort of) will begin! 

Since I've returned to Berlin, in addition to finding a room to live in, looking for some work, getting set up in Germany again, I've also begun rehearsals for the aformentioned upcoming gigs. 

It has been interesting, as, for musical reasons, I've replaced three of the five band members in Euro KlezFactor.  It's never an easy process to replace somewhere, but for the first time since I've begun rehearsing my music in Germany, I feel like my musical vision is finally being realized. 

It's a hard thing to put into words. While the previous musicians were good, with the current group, things are easier.  They just understand where the music is going more naturally, which allows me to be freer in my own playing.  Another benefit is that the musicians are bringing more of themselves into the music, which takes it into different directions that it has been in before.  What this does is makes the songs (some of which I've been playing for 8 years) feel and sound new again, which also adds vitality to my own playing.

We have several concerts coming up, beginning with one on June 28th at Kaffee Burger in Berlin.  In my eyes, this is the perfect venue to unveil the German version of KlezFactor.  It's part of a Yiddish music series called KB im KB (Klezmer Bund im Kaffee Burger).  The series, founded by accordionist Franka Lampe and singer/instrumentalist/songwriter Daniel Kahn, has been running monthly at Kaffee Burger since January.  Some great artists (including both Franka and Daniel, and Vancouver's Geoff Berner) have played the series and from what I've been able to tell, they've been well attended.  The bar itself is also more of a rock bar, so KlezFactor's more heavy influences overpower the venue.  We'll unleash the full electric power (the "Kleztricity" if you will)* of KlezFactor on the unsuspecting masses.**

Also, Friday brings another klezmer jam session at Cafe Oberwasser.  Should be great fun amidst all the soccer (football) that's going on around here!


* No, I didn't make "Kleztricity" up right now.  It's the title of one of our tunes from our first album, The Golem of Bathurst Manor (available on iTunes and CD Baby)

** We hope there are masses.