Perhaps it was the fact it was a rainy Sunday afternoon. Or maybe it was because it was Remembrance Day. Or maybe it was the incredible story about the power of music and the tragic circumstances of the inmates of the Nazi concentration camp, Terezin.
Whatever the reasons, yesterday I left the Ridge Theatre after seeing the movie Defiant Requiem thinking it was one of the most powerful movies I had ever seen in my life. I'm writing this post in the hope that thousands of other Canadians will one day get an opportunity to see the movie too.
The movie was featured as part of Vancouver Jewish Film Festival. And while it tells the true story of an imprisoned Jewish Conductor Rafael Schachter and the Jewish inmates of the camp, you do not have to be Jewish to appreciate this amazing movie. On the contrary, it will appeal to people of any religion, and in particular those with an appreciation of music and the power of the human spirit.
As noted in the Film Festival program, Defiant Requiem retells the amazing true story of 150 inmates of Terezin who, led by the conductor Schachter, become a choir and master one of the world's most difficult and powerful choral works, Verdi's The Requiem http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_%28Verdi%29
The choir would ultimately confront the Nazis face to face...and sing to them what they dare not say.
In attendance on Sunday was Murry Sidlin, http://www.hughkaylor.com/Sidlin-Murry-Bio.html
an American conductor who by chance came across the story of Schachter and Terezin, and dreamt of bringing the Requiem back to Terezin. He set out on an odyssey to find people who had been in the camp and learn as much as he could about their experiences. Ultimately, with musicians from America and the Czech Republic, he re-staged (if one can use such a term) the concert in the crumbling camp buildings, where a few of the remaining Holocaust survivors who were at the camp returned with their families. (In the case of one family, two sons performed in the choir...as a surprise for their parents.)
Many stories have been told about the horrors of the Holocaust and the concentration camps. I must confess that when I was in Krakow in 2007 I did not take the short journey to Auschwitz because I did not want to experience the horrors of the place. But somehow, the story of these inmates, as told by Sidlin and a couple of incredibly eloquent survivors was as much about the triumph of the human spirit as the horrors of the camp.
After viewing the film, Sidlin was asked by a member of the audience why he, a musical conductor, decided to make this movie. He said it was because he wanted more people to know about the incredible achievements of conductor Schachter who tragically died just before the end of the war.
In a way, although I am not a musician, and fortunately have no connections whatsoever to Terzin, I want to tell more Vancouverites about the incredible achievement of Sidlin in making this film, and do what I can to help others see the film.
I hope you will too.
You can learn much more about the movie here: http://defiantrequiemfilm.com/