Gluckman survived the side of Casablanca we never see in the classic Michael
Curtiz film. Although she and he husband escaped from occupied Belgium in the
nick of time, they spent most of the war as prisoners of Vichy’s Camp Sidi Al
Ayachi and Camp Bou Arfa. Obviously, she has important stories to tell, but age
and time are stealing her capacity to articulate them. Olga Lvoff documents how
music therapy helps Gluckman maintain connections to her daughter and their
family history in the Oscar short-listed short documentary When People Die They Sing Songs (trailer here), which screens
during this year’s DOC NYC.
survived her long ordeal in the Moroccan camps. Her husband lived through it,
but his psyche would be irreparably damaged. Sonia Gluckman hardy knew her
father, but her relationship with her mother is long and complex. When her
mother started showing the adverse effects of a stroke, Gluckman nursed her
back to physical health, but was keenly aware of the time lost for documenting
her survival story.
the difficult realities for what they are, Gluckman discovers her mother’s
regular music therapy sessions are one of the best ways to draw her out. Gluckman
happily sings the French and Yiddish songs of her youth, as her therapist gamely
accompanies on the fly. Time is not on their side, but at least she is able to
get some meaningful answers from her mother.
the Moroccan Vichy camps constitute an aspect of Holocaust history that has not
been widely covered in film and literature, which alone makes WPDTSS a valuable film. Yet, perhaps its
most moving sequence addresses their 9/11 experiences. Necessarily colored by
prior family tragedies, it sort of brings matters full circle.
Nominated for a student Oscar, WPDTSS is a sensitive film that does not
belabor its painful ironies. Typically, remembrance is the guiding principle of
Holocaust documentaries, but it is becoming increasingly difficult act for
Gluckman. Yet, unlike far too many members of her family, she survived to be
plagued by the consequences of old age. Featuring a supportive but evocative
soundtrack, Lvoff’s film has something to add to our understanding of history
as well as the issues of aging. Respectfully recommended, When People Die They Sing Songs screens this Sunday (11/16) on a
double bill with The Lion’s Mouth Opens,
as part of DOC NYC 2014.
Labels: DOC NYC '14, Documentary, Short Films