Klezmer music has been popular among young Jews for the last decade and even "crossed over" to the general public with band such as the Klezmatics or clarinetist Andy Statman bridging it with country and bluegrass. But this Jewish folk music goes back to much further to the turn of the century in Russia and the Ukraine. Before World War II there were, literally, thousands of klezmer musicians. But the horrors created by Adolf Hitler and the Nazis all but eliminated these musicians - and their culture - during the Holocaust.
This film, a work of love by filmmaker and musician Yale Strom, was produced in 1994 but is making it's home video debut. During the 84 minutes of this film (actually a video as it was recorded on tape) Strom follows composer/pianist Leopold Kozlowski (whose family name was Kleinman) from Krakow, Poland, where he was (in 1994) a conductor and music teacher to the Ukraine to visit the locations where he was born, learned music and lived until he was forced to hide from the Nazis. HE was captured but his musical talents allowed him to live by playing in the camp bands. He escaped and, with others, hid in the forests. He lost both his parents as well as his yo9unger brother - also a talented musician. Strom follows Kozlowski as he says Yahrzeit (memorial prayers) at the sites where he lost family and friends. This is the crux of the film. Strom frames the story by showing the then 70-year-old musician conducting a local performance of "Fiddler On The Roof", so that the sadness of the middle section comes full circle at the end with Kozlowski teaching the tradition to the next generation.
The subtitles on this film - it's nearly all in Yiddish - are large and very easy to read. The film has a sound track though it does move at a fairly slow pace. There are also 18 minutes of "deleted scenes" though they are all in one "track" and are not indexed. And the subtitles are MUCH smaller than in the released film.
This is a story that continually needs to be told and Strom's film should reach a wider distribution with this home video version. It is highly recommended to anyone interested in Jewish culture, the Holocaust or the "roots" of Klezmer music.