6.9/10
15
3 user 5 critic

L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin (2002)

Documentary on Joseph Stalin's 1928 creation of the world's first Jewish homeland in the Soviet Union, in a barren stretch of land on Siberia's Far Eastern border.

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Documentary on Joseph Stalin's 1928 creation of the world's first Jewish homeland in the Soviet Union, in a barren stretch of land on Siberia's Far Eastern border.

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1 August 2002 (USA)  »

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Na zdrowie, towarzyszu Stalin  »

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Worth watching if you are curious about Stalin's homeland for the Jews
5 April 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I agree with the two preceding comments so far as they go, but I see a good deal of value here nonetheless.

It is true that we are not told who the people filmed are, in the sense of being given names. But in good part the people themselves tell us who they are. They describe their families, their backgrounds, how they came to move to the Jewish Autonomous Region, and much more.

The film technique is collage. This can be annoying if you are looking for a coherent year by year story. But if you are patient, there's a good chance you will find the technique effective. The film gives you a great many of the pieces, -- the times, the interactions with Stalin's changing policies, the reactions of Soviet citizens to the whole idea, the widely varying backgrounds of the Jews who decided to go, and the range of experiences they had while they were there.

The film doesn't try to put all the ducks in a row for you. All of these things happened, it says. They are all part of the story. It is up to you to come up with your own summary, if that's what you feel is required.

Whatever the motives of the people who conceived and set up the Jewish Autonomous Region, and the hopes and dreams of those who chose to transplant themselves there, as a piece of world history what this film recounts is a very minor episode. It had few if any global repercussions. But as a window into the lives, hopes, and fates of a highly varied collection of people who were part of that roughly 1/500th of the world's population who are Jews, it is very informative, and ultimately quite moving.

Not so incidentally, as many of the interviews in the film are in Russian or Yiddish, though the running English translation text below the images gives the core meaning of what is being said, it adds a good deal to the impact of the film if the viewer has at least some knowledge of those two languages.


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