the Six-Day War, Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country to maintain
diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. That’s not much say for the Ceauşescu
regime, but its something. In truth, Israel and Romania had a long and complex
history that predated 1967, going back to the very first organized Aliyah that
originated in part from Romania. Oania Giurgiu talks to descendants of those
very first pioneers in her sweeping yet highly personal documentary, Aliyah DaDa (trailer here), which screens
during the 2015 edition of Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema.
the late Nineteenth Century, a hearty band of Romanian Jews returned to their
ancient homeland. It was a hard life, but the local Arab population was rather
glad to have them there as potential allies and buffers in their quarrels with
the Bedouins. They would not be the last Romanian Jews to take the Aliyah
journey to what would be known as Israel again in 1948. However, the fascist Antonescu
regime imposed anti-Jewish laws, much like their Axis allies, which abruptly
halted all Jewish immigration.
Romanian transit re-commenced in the immediate power-war years, but at that
time leaving Romania was the safest part of the journey. Following the purge of
prominent Jewish CP member Ana Pauker, Ceauşescu generally followed the Soviets’
anti-Semitic party line. Yet, he still periodically allowed spurts of
immigration to Israel, in return for hard currency.
is the broad strokes of it, but it is the personal details that interest
Giurgiu. Though not Jewish herself, she had always been fascinated by the fate
of immigrating Jewish Hungarians after her parents bought their house from one
such family. She also finds a visually distinctive way to tell their stories,
constructing on-screen photo-collages inspired by the work of Tristan Tzara and
Marcel Janco, two Jewish Romanians who were at the forefront of the DaDa art
should all know the fundamentals of Romania’s tragic Communist and fascist
past, but seeing it as part of a continuum of over a century of history rather
puts things in perspective. All things considered, it is miraculous the nation
is not even more dysfunctional. To her credit, Giurgiu keeps the film grounded
in the human realities of the grand macro forces through her interviews with
the frank and welcoming Romanian-Israelis.
enough, Giurgiu’s cinematic collages also serve the material quite well, dramatically
illustrating the passage of time through her layering-on and stripping off. She
also assembles some striking archival photos, which are often haunting,
nostalgic, or a little of both. Her interview style is decidedly informal, but
it clearly works with both the learned scholars and weathered farmers descended
from members of that 1882 Aliyah.
ADD is briskly paced but also provides a surprisingly
comprehensive yet digestible overview of Jewish Romanian history up until the Revolution.
It offers insights into both totalitarian systems that misruled the nation
during the last century, while also earning way more style points than your garden
variety documentary. Highly recommended, Aliyah
DaDa screens this Thursday (12/3) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s
Making Waves: New Romanian Cinema.
Labels: Documentary, Making Waves '15, Romanian Cinema