«Jewish Observer»
March 2002
5762 Nisan

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The first, and so far, the only essay on the Jewish topic in the national cinematography has been published.

There is nothing more inexplicable, illusory and real at the same time than the Jewish topic in the Soviet art. On the one hand, it wasn't even implied that the Jews might show up in films, plays or books. A few million Soviet people were "disabled by the fifth column" which signified your nationality. Nevertheless, a number of topics connected with the life of a big people were banned. Actors who looked Jewish or reminded Jews were not allowed to start as positive or heroic characters. On the other hand, it seems there was not a single film in which, at least, secondary parts were not played by someone who looked like ironical Zinoviy Gerdt, wise Sergei Yuroskiy or Emmanuil Geller who played parts of almost all representatives of the consumer services. The names of the classics of the home cinema production make quite a definite list starting with Romm, Trauberg, Reisman, Heifits up to Awerbach and German.

Miron Chernenko, the President of the Russian guild of cinema critics, has been writing "Red Star, Yellow Star" for many years. The book is about the Jewish topic in Soviet and Russian cinematography, the true history of the people and its hoaxed version. It is about ups and downs of the public interest to the topic which is strange, half-banned, at times ordered from above, at times suicidal. Finally, it is about the Jews' contribution to the home cinematography, which is invaluable but has never been spoken about.

The author of the book brought together, systematized and analyzed almost three hundreds of features films and an innumerable number of documentaries. These pictures do not portray Jewry. They present an ideological and aesthetic attitude of the government and arts to the Jewish people. Among them there are "Jewish Happiness" with Mikhoels starring (1926), "The Barracks", "Khrustalion, the car!", "Brother" and other symbolic pictures of the today's cinematography.

Miron Chernenko made a very detailed study of the topic. He systematized all various ways in which Jewry is represented in cinematography. The author didn't confine himself to just stating facts, including unknown ones. Chernenko analyses, forms hypotheses and possible ways of the development of events. He does not write only about historical facts; he makes guesses about what could have happened. For example, he mentions Eisenstein's epopee "1905" and the history of its part "Jewish Massacre" which wasn't shot. In the book there is a script fragment of this masterpiece that never appeared.

The Jews went though the Holocaust, an epoch of government anti-Semitism, were nearly destroyed by "the father of the nations" and nearly sank into oblivion. They do have something to tell themselves as well as others. So the Jewish cinematography will go on, it can not be limited only to the material discussed in Miron Chernenko's book. Though, taking into account all changes, it is going to be quite a different cinematography.

Chernenko Miron. Red Star, Yellow Star. - Vinnitsa: Globus-Press, 2001.

"Vremya" MN

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