Saturday, November 7, 2009

Four Seasons Lodge

Film Review by Kam Williams

Headline: Moving Documentary Chronicles Annual Gathering of Holocaust Survivors

I have a couple of friends with parents still alive who survived the Holocaust but have never written their memoirs or even spoken much about the host of horrors they had witnessed while interned in the concentration camp.
But after watching Four Seasons Lodge, I now fully understand why there just might not be words to describe what it was like to escape the mass genocide which claimed the lives of one’s entire family.
Just such a predicament is repeatedly recounted in this poignant picture directed by Andrew Jacobs. He shot his heartbreaking documentary on location at the aforementioned Four Seasons Lodge, a bungalow colony in the Catskills Mountains where a tight-knit group of Holocaust survivors have gathered ever summer for decades.
The season during which he shot was shaping up to be their final reunion, not only because their numbers were dwindling due to advanced age, but because the owner had finalized plans to sell the 46-acre, Borscht Belt resort to a real estate developer. Although director Jacob’s subjects seem concerned with more mundane matters like dancing, playing cards or the impending loss of their beloved retreat, he gently prodded them to reflect upon their World War II experiences.
Lola Wenglin recounts how she was liberated at the age of 19 after 5 years in the death camps only to discover that her parents, brothers and sisters had all gone to the ovens. Tobias Buchman says that his being a teenager probably saved him, since younger children and older folks were the first to be exterminated.
When Genya Boyman finds it difficult to speak, Basie Adelman immediately comes to her defense, protectively stating that she “doesn’t like to talk about it, because it affected her in a different way.” The best Genya can muster up is a story about how her granddaughter Jennifer always asks, Tell me a story… tell me a story! ”I tell her, ‘one day…” Then Genya’s voice trails off as she futilely shrugs in frustration, “All of us live with it.”
Ostensibly scarred by Hitler for life, each deals with the ongoing trauma in his or her own way. This one is still angry. “I am swallowing the tears. I cannot show them.” Meanwhile, that one wistfully asks why, “Of my 300 relatives, did only I survive?” Another wonders aloud “Why did God let it happen?” Yet another shares papers retrieved from Auschwitz detailing how Dr. Mengele had experimented on him.
Perhaps most poignant is the piercing wail of Cesia Potok emanating from a bedroom at dawn as her husband Carl patiently explains that this is how she often awakens. By contrast, Hymie Abramowitz probably proves the most eloquent when matter-of-factly summarizing why Four Seasons Lodge has so much meaning to him after so many years. “We survivors, we stick to each other. We just want to be together. We need it.”
Pack the Kleenex. One of the most emotionally-evocative documentaries about Holocaust survivors.

Excellent (4 stars)
In English, Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish with subtitles.
Running time: 96 minutes
Studio: First Run Features

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