Johannesburg audiences loved Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin, when it was screened at 2 shows on Sunday 18 March at the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre. Leah and Teddy would be delighted that the magic of Yiddish song struck gold in the hearts of the audience!
There was an expectant, warm and friendly buzz over tea and snacks (loved the chiffon cake) before the 5.30pm screening. A full auditorium responded appreciatively throughout the documentary. The ice-breaker was certainly Ivor Joffe's hilarious rendition of the Max Perlman classic, Benzin - Petroleum. His stylish performance brought the house down! Perlman (1909 - 1985) was born in Riga, Latvia to a middle-class family. He toured South Africa in 1948 and 1951 - and some members of the audience remember his visits. Wish I could recall the name of the man who told me that Perlman came and sang at his barmitzvah on one of those visits! I'm sure - ikh bien zikher - that Perlman would have approved of Joffe's comedic take of the old man trying to keep up with his new, young wife.
The spontaneous applause at the end of the movie was wonderfully rewarding!
The Q+A after both screenings was a perfect opportunity for one-on-one feedback with the film's directors, Heather Blumenthal and Philip Todres.
The revival of interest in Yiddish was something that came up in both Q+A sessions. Indeed, it is as Leyb Rozental proclaimed in his 'anthem' of the Vilna Ghetto, Mir Leben Eybek - we will survive, we are here to stay! This is an issue that Holocaust survivor, Miriam Lichterman, observes and comments upon in the documentary.
Leyb Rozental (1916-1945) was a famous Yiddish poet and lyricist - brother of Chayele and uncle of Zola, who performs his song Ikh Beynk Aheim - I Long for Home in the doccie. Leyb might have died tragically in a concentration camp a few days before the end of the war, but his songs live on! Read the story about Zola and her performance in the Annual Leah Todres Yiddish Song Festival in 2010.
Tea and snacks after the screening was another opportunity to continue the discussion about the doccie and Heather and Philip were thrilled with the informed and positive response.
Yiddish song lives on and hopefully this documentary will reach out to a broader community. The lyrics of the first song in the documentary are "zol der nigun veiter geyn" - let the song reach out into the world. This song, Lakht Mit Mir, Zingt Mit Mir, is by Yaakov (Yankale) Bodo (born 1931), an Israeli actor and comedian notable for numerous Israeli film appearances, for his years in theater, and for his work in the Yiddish language theater in particular. (Top photo shows part of the full cast of 120, singing Lakht Mit Mir, Zingt Mit Mir)
A sheynem dank to Hazel Cohen and Rene Sidley for hosting Leah, Teddy & the Mandolin at the Rabbi Cyril Harris Community Centre and for making it all happen.