Total Pageviews

Friday, 30 March 2012

Solomon Mikhoels and Yiddish Theatre and Cinema in the early Soviet period and a note on the Roma cultural renaissance.

Solomon Mikhoels

One of the most unusual films I remembered watching at Moscow's Muzei Kino- before it was shut down by gutless bureaucrats and Nikita Mikhalkov- was the yiddish-language film Возвращение Нейтана Беккера 'The return of Nathan Becker', made in 1932 at the behest of Belarus Film studios. One of the only yiddish language films made in the Soviet Union this was to be only part of a long history of Jewish cinema in the Soviet Union whose story has been recounted by Miron Chernenko in his volume entitled Red Star- Yellow Star Красная звезда - желтая звезда (кинематографическая история еврейства в России). No clips of the film seem to be available on Youtube but I did find this extraordinary clip of Mikhoels playing King Lear at the Jewish State Theatre in 1935. Mikhoels was to be killed off in a staged motor accident in 1948 (given his phenomenal popularity in the Soviet Union and abroad a show trial would have been too risky for Stalin) whereas the script writer Peretz Markish (father to the Russian language Israeli author David Markish) was subjected to a show trial along with a number of Jewish intellectuals and exceuted along with them on what was to become as the Night of the Murdered Poets.  In English the extraordinary tale of Yiddish cinema in the Soviet Union is told in J. Hoberman's short essay 'A face to the shtetl: Soviet Yiddish Cinema, 1924-1936' (published in 'Inside the Film Factory'). A film on Jewish Theatre in the Soviet Union called 'Balancing Acts' has been made (a short clip of which is available on youtube /watch?v=KF1ZOvMi18k ). This article from Haaretz also talks about David Markish's relation to his father and to Isaac Babel

The Soviet 1920s didn't signal only the flowering of Yiddish language art but was also the location of a brief renaissance in Roma culture- a story which has been barely told. I was made aware of this fact one day on a car journey from Bratislava to Brno by one of the Czech Republics foremost scholars of Roma culture, the late Milena Hübschmannová, who told me of the extraordinary Soviet writer of Czech roma origin, Alexandr Germano and the flourishing renaissance of roma culture in the Soviet Union of the pre-Stalin period. The Romen theatre, founded in 1931, is still running today and in fact the first major musical-dramatic performance was Жизнь на колёсах (Life on Wheels)- based on a play by Germano. A brief history of this theatre is given in its wikipedia entrance

No comments:

Post a Comment