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EpochNYFFF'10

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The Epoch Times

January 13, 2010

Poet Laureate Experiences ‘Sense of the Divine’
By MARY SILVER
Epoch Times Staff

OTTAWA—Professor Cyril Dabydeen, who has seen Shen Yun Performing Arts several times, said that each time he sees the show “something new comes into my own spirit.” At Shen Yun’s sold-out opening in Ottawa on Sunday afternoon, the distinguished author, teacher, and former Poet Laureate of Ottawa said during the intermission that he felt a sense of transcendence. “So far, overall what is coming to me so beautifully is the sense of the divine, the divine spirit and 5,000 years of Chinese culture and the quintessence of it, the singing of the soprano and the tenor, and of course

‘That beautiful spirit that brings us to a higher level of our existence—that comes to me in a marvelous way.’
— Professor Cyril Dabydeen, poet laureate of Ottawa
the beautiful dance that we are seeing on stage. It is so overwhelming, so wonderfully beautiful.” Others in Ottawa seem to have shared his enthusiasm. The full house gave a standing ovation. Also, standing room admission, which normally is made available only 30 minutes before a show, was sold out well in advance. Mr. Dabydeen said that at previous Shen Yun shows he was more aware of the richness of traditional Chinese culture. But this time around “what has come to me more beautifully is the sense of the divine—the celestial spirit in all of us—that is really coming to me more forcefully than ever. Now, the finer points come to me, the embroidery of it all.” “In January, the year 2010, you are seeing the sense of the divine, that

beautiful spirit that brings us to a higher level of our existence—that comes to me in a marvelous way.” He hoped others in the audience experienced his sense of being enriched by the performance. With Canadian society being so materialistic, he said he also hopes the show “will really change our spirit, broaden our spirit, [and help people appreciate] the great traditions of the Chinese civilization and the Chinese immigrants and people of Chinese background who are Canadians.” Mr. Dabydeen praised the range and variety of Chinese culture as presented by Shen Yun, in both music and dance. “[Shen Yun provides] the real richness of the Chinese culture.”

He said that he wants the Prime Minister of Canada and the entire cabinet to see Shen Yun “because in every show there are human beings of great calibre, plus the divine all melded beautifully together.” The show, he concluded, is “beautiful, it’s enriching, it’s marvelous, it’s quintessential.” With reporting by NTDTV and Cindy Chan of The Epoch Times. Shen Yun Performing Arts is currently on world tour, and arrives at New York’s Radio City Music Hall on Valentines Day weekend (Feb 13-14) and Chinese New Year (Feb. 20-21). The Epoch Times is a proud sponsor of Shen Yun Performing Arts. For more information, please visit ShenYunPerformingArts.org.

AWED: Professor Cyril Dabydeen, distinguished author, teacher, and former poet laureate of Ottawa. samira bouaou/the epoch times

By JOE BENDEL The New York Jewish Film Festival (NYJFF) kicks off this week at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. The festival in its 19th year, is co-presented by The Jewish Museum and The Film Society of Lincoln Center from Jan. 13 to 28. This year’s docket includes 32 features and shorts, with several key film screenings already sold out. For a full schedule of activities, please visit www.thejewishmuseum.org/exhibitions/nyjff2010. Below are three noteworthy film reviews featured in the festival ‘saviors in the night’ One of the most pernicious lies of the Nazi propaganda machine blamed the alleged lack of patriotism among Jews for Germany’s defeat in World War I. In reality, scores of German Jews served the Kaiser with honor and distinction, including Menne Spiegel, who was awarded the Iron Cross for his courage under fire. The simple, Godfearing farmers of Westphalia knew better. Though many were indeed members in good standing of the National Socialist Party, they sheltered Spiegel, his wife Marga, and daughter Karin without hesitation. Those tense two years in Westphalia are chronicled in Ludi Boeken’s “Saviors in the Night,” which opens the 2010 New York Jewish Film Festival this Wednesday.

The 19th New York Jewish Film Festival
mercy and courage were deeply rooted in their Catholicism. “We are closer to the Bishop of Münster than to Hitler,” he admonishes his daughter Anni, an ardent Hitler Youth. Yes, young Anni has an inevitable change of heart, as she comes to understand the nature of the National Socialist regime. Of course, there are also many sudden inspections and near exposures, but they are well executed by Boeken. He keeps the atmosphere tense, but remains faithful to the understated nature of Westphalia’s pious farmers. Much like “Schindler’s List,” the actors are joined by the actual Marga Spiegel and Anni Aschoff for the final scene, but in “Savior” the mood is more celebratory rather than elegiac, again giving established conventions a fractionally different twist. The film’s cast is uniformly strong, particularly the vaguely Joseph Cotton looking Martin Horn, who portrays Aschoff with fitting unpretentious directness. Likewise, Veronica Ferres certainly captures Marga Spiegel’s fear and desperation, but with considerable depth and quiet intensity, preventing her from becoming a mere stock figure and rather guileless nature. He emerges as a protagonist much in the tradition of Socialist Realism, who is forced by economic circumstances to commit a heinous crime and is then crushed by the same heartless world for his sins. Indeed, the film could be deconstructed into a critique of the fickleness of “the masses,” those that first cheered for Hitler and then turned against his loyal executioner. In and of itself, “Axe” is a terrible history lesson, but as a controversial product of the DEFA studio, it is film of great historical importance. It is also a surprisingly entertaining dark thriller for those able appreciate it in the proper context. It screens Sunday afternoon (Jan. 17) at the Walter Reade Theater. ‘gruber’s journey’ In recent years, American, Israeli, and Western European filmmakers have not been reluctant to address the Holocaust on film. However, that has not been the case in Romania, where the notorious Ia?i Pogrom remains a particularly delicate subject to broach. Director Radu Gabrea has been the rare exception, producing both documentaries and dramatic features about the Jewish experience in Romania. Produced with a willful disregard for the Romanian box office, Gabrea presents the tragic events of Ia?i from the perspective of a non-Romanian outsider in his latest film, “Gruber’s Journey” which screens Wednesday and Thursday at the New York Jewish Film Festival. A complicated historical figure, the Italian writer Curzio Malaparte was indeed a member of the Italian Fascist Party, though not always in good standing due to his gadfly tendencies. As fate would dictate, he was in Ia?i, or Jassy as it also known, immediately following the massive roundup of the city’s Jewish population and would incorporate a very critical account of the incident into his novel “Kaputt.” In “Journey,” Gabrea suggests a fictional story to explain Malaparte’s ultimate disillusionment with Italy’s allies and Fascism in general. Assigned to cover the Russian front for the Italian news service, Malaparte is traveling east with

HISTORICAL FILM: A scene from “The Axe of Wandsbek” (1951). defa film library/film society of lincoln center

IN FEAR OF DISCOVERY: Veronica Ferres in the NJFF kick off film, “Saviors In The Night.” film society of lincoln center

Blond and beautiful, Marga Spiegel looks Aryan, which allows her and Karin to pass themselves off as simple evacuees, finding refuge at the farm of Spiegel’s old army comrade Heinrich Aschoff after a recent round of Allied bombing. Unfortunately though, not only is Menne Spiegel recognizable to many Westphalians from his horse trading business, he also almost looks like a Nazi caricature, forcing his protector, the taciturn Pentrop, to keep him hidden away in the loft of his workshop, safely out of sight. Based on Marga Spiegel’s memoir, “Savior” largely follows a pattern somewhat familiar from other rescuer films, but it still has some fresh perspectives to offer. One might assume Marga and Karin would find comfort with their supposed fellow evacuees, but they can never let their guard down around the Aschoff’s other virulently anti-Semitic guests. Marga also has to contend with a certain degree of class envy from Aschoff’s wife Maria. Yet the film makes it quite clear the Aschoffs’

of noble suffering and endurance. Teenaged Lia Hoensbroech also handles Anni Aschoff’s transformation convincingly, nicely playing off Ferres in their critical scenes together. While “Savior” essentially takes the audience where it expects to go, it does so effectively. Its strong leads engage the audience emotionally, while Boeken’s sure hand keeps the on-screen action tightly focused. More than just an exercise in good intentions, “Savior” is a strong film, well-chosen to kick off this year’s NYJFF. It screens Wednesday (Jan. 13) at the Walter Reade, with Marga Spiegel scheduled to attend. ‘the axe of wandsbek’ Despite their rigid internal censorship, the East German state-owned DEFA movie studio occasionally slipped up and accidentally produced a film that ran afoul of their Soviet masters. Given the skepticism openly expressed for central state planning in Frank Beyer’s “Trace of Stones,” it is easy to understand

why it was banned by the Communist government. The ideological sins committed by Falk Harnack’s “The Axe of Wandsbek” were less obvious. Dutifully casting the underground resistance to National Socialism as ardent Communists in a convenient act of revisionist history, Harnack seemed to touch all the right propaganda bases. However, when the authorities deemed the psychologically realistic anti-hero-protagonist too sympathetic, ‘Axe” was quickly yanked from theaters after its 1951 opening. Fortunately, the film survived to enjoy the new vogue for DEFA’s films, with a newly restored print screening this Sunday at the New York Jewish Film Festival. It is 1934 in the Wandsbek district of Hamburg. In five year’s time, Germany and the Soviet Union will sign the Molotov-Ribbentrop nonaggression pact, dividing Poland between the two regimes. However, as “Axe” opens, there are four Communist prisoners in Hamburg the Fuhrer wants executed, but there is no executioner available to get the job done. As long as the “Reeperbahn Four” still draw breath, the Fuhrer refuses to grace the city with his presence, which is most distressing to the shipping magnate and local SS enforcer, Peter Footh. Times are also tough for Albert Teetjen, a local butcher losing business because he cannot afford modern extravagances, like refrigeration. However, when the desperate Teetjen seeks the help of his old army comrade Footh, he gets an offer he never expected. It involves his grandfather’s axe, made of the finest Sheffield steel. Teetjen does indeed stand in for the absent executioner, earning 2,000 marks for his efforts. Initially, everything seems to work out swimmingly. Customers flock to buy Teetjen’s refrigerated meat while celebrating Hitler’s triumphant tour of the city. However, when word leaks out about Teetjen’s grim freelance work, he is shunned by the community and hounded by the Communist underground. “Axe” is a strange film. Though loosely based on an actual incident, the film’s central premise, that the Third Reich would have difficulty executing four prisoners, seems bizarre. It is also a somewhat odd selection for the New York Jewish Film Festival, because it never addresses the Holocaust. Aside from an antiSemitic remark here and there, it

suggests the Nazis were chiefly concerned with persecuting the Communists (with whom they would ally themselves during the early years of the war.)

In and of itself, “Axe” is a terrible history lesson, but as a controversial product of the DEFA studio, it is film of great historical importance.
DEFA was most certainly in the propaganda business, so it is important to keep that in mind while screening “Axe.” Still, it is worth parsing the ideology for Harnack’s stylish film noir elements, particularly the visual flourishes of his scene transitions. Erwin Geschonneck, a former concentration camp prisoner, does in fact humanize Teetjen, conveying his desperation

Col. Freitag of the Wehrmacht and the deputy commander of the local Romanian garrison. It is all quite chummy and pleasant except for the severe allergy attack plaguing the writer. He has a referral from a doctor in Bucharest for a worldclass allergist, Dr. Josef Gruber, but when Malaparte reaches Ia?i, Dr. Gruber is mysteriously nowhere to be found. After enduring a local hack doctor’s battery of sedatives to no avail, Malaparte sets out to find Gruber. What follows is a Kafkaesque story of bureaucratic runaround, as the sinus-challenged Fascist attempts to locate Gruber’s transport. It is not simply a case of Romanians lacking German efficiency. To produce Gruber would imply a level of knowledge and culpability that none of the local Romanians want to assume, despite earning laurels mere days earlier for their actions in the pogrom. “Journey” is a deliberately bloodless and cerebral film. Gabrea shows the audience nothing directly. Instead, we watch Malaparte put together the pieces. Why is the local pharmacy a mad house? Because their two closest competitors suddenly shuttered their doors at the same time Gruber disappeared. Inescapably, a pattern emerges. Throughout the film, Gabrea slowly builds toward Malaparte’s final moment of epiphany. It is a subtle payoff, but nicely turned by Florin Piersic, Jr. Perhaps the greatest standout in the cast though is German actor Udo Schenk, disturbingly convincing as the charming but ruthless Freitag. Undoubtedly, some will be troubled by the film’s antiseptic approach, relying on the audience to supply its own visions of the horrors that have happened in Ia?i. Indeed, its attempts at absurdist humor often seem more uncomfortable than amusing. Understanding the trajectory Malaparte’s life will follow though, would probably help foster an appreciation of the coldly intellectual film portrayal. It is a film pitched at the head rather than the heart, which is quite ambitious given the dramatic nature of its subject. It screens at the Walter Reade Theater Wednesday (Jan.13) and Thursday (Jan. 14). Joe Bendel blogs on jazz and cultural issues at jbspins.blogspot.com and coordinated the Jazz Foundation of America’s instrument donation campaign for musicians displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

CEREBRAL TALE: A scene from “Gruber’s Journey.” film society of lincoln center

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