Tremont Mail

A Look Into a World That’s Long Been Forgotten

MOVIE REVIEW
Shtetlers

    

Genre: Documentary
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 20m
Director(s): Katya Ustinova
Language(s): Russian, Ukrainian, Yiddish w/English Subtitles
Where To Watch: Premiering on VOD & digital February 3, 2023


RAVING REVIEW: The film SHTETLERS delves into this emotion by examining the former Jewish towns or shtetls that once flourished in the Soviet Union. Despite being cut off from the outside world by the Iron Curtain, these tight-knit communities maintained their ancient religion, Yiddish language, folklore, and intricate craftsmanship. However, only a few of these towns managed to survive the Holocaust, and today, they exist as fading memories in the minds of a select few.


Director Katya Ustinova, a Russian-born filmmaker, brings the memories of the shtetls to life through the perspectives of nine Jewish and non-Jewish individuals who once called these communities home. Their vivid and personal recollections paint a picture of a world where different cultures coexist in harmonious unity despite being surrounded by hostile ideologies. Through interviews and conversations with former residents and current non-Jewish neighbors still residing in rural Ukraine and Moldova, the film presents an intimate look into the lives of those who once lived in the shtetls. Their vivid and personal recollections paint a picture of a world where different cultures coexist in harmonious unity despite being surrounded by hostile ideologies.

One of the film's most impressive elements is its portrayal of the stories as personal and compassionate. The subjects are not merely stories in a documentary but real people sharing their memories and experiences. Their recollections are profoundly moving and offer a touching insight into the world they once knew.

Contrary to the notion that shtetl residents faced constant animosity from their gentile neighbors, the film shows that, in many cases, the shtetl residents and their non-Jewish neighbors lived in mutual respect and harmony.

SHTETLERS serves as a farewell to a world that once was, a world where the traditions and cultures of many nations coexisted in the Soviet interior. The film takes the viewer through rural Ukraine and Moldova, where Katya Ustinova sought out the remaining individuals who remembered the shtetls that survived post-WW2 and the Soviet era.

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[photo courtesy of FILM MOVEMENT]