Official trailer for The Rescuers
Tarbut is the Hebrew word for culture, and Winnipeg's second annual festival of Jewish culture pitches a big tent, covering everything from music and books to visual art and film.
The Rescuers, a documentary feature from Emmy award-winning American filmmaker Michael King, pairs distinguished British historian Martin Gilbert with Stephanie Nyombayire, a young Rwandan anti-genocide activist. Together they look at the stories of the "righteous diplomats," men and women who saved thousands of Jews from the Nazi regime, often under difficult and dangerous conditions.
Structurally, the film can be a bit clunky, with some awkward voiceovers and stilted staged conversations, but the subject matter is powerful. Visiting 15 countries, Gilbert and Nyombayire research stories of an American Quaker stationed in France, a Turkish diplomat on the island of Rhodes, a Japanese attaché in Shanghai - remarkable people who often worked against the express orders of their higher-ups, their state departments and their governments, following instead the dictates of their own consciences.
The film also addresses a question that keeps coming up in Winnipeg with the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights: Why a permanent Holocaust exhibition? The Rescuers makes a persuasive argument that because the Holocaust is so meticulously documented and studied, it can demonstrate how genocide operates. For Nyombayire, who saw family members brutally murdered in the Rwandan genocide, these Holocaust histories raise pressing current questions: She wants to know what these accounts can tell people today, especially diplomats stationed in the world's hotspots - those places that could become the next Rwanda or the next Darfur.
Filmmaker King will be in attendance at the Sunday screening, to introduce the film and participate in a talkback session.
The festival runs from November 12-20th at the Rady Jewish Community Centre. Here are a couple of crowd-pleasing events to look out for:
A reading (Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m.) by American writer Anita Diamant. Winnipeg is a big book club town, and Diamant's The Red Tent is a BIG book club book. Telling the stories of the women of the Hebrew Bible - including Leah, Rachel and Dinah -- from a woman's point of view, this page-turning historical novel started out quietly in 1998 but soon became a word-of-mouth worldwide bestseller.
A tribute to the music of Bob Dylan by Glenn Buhr's Broken Songs band (Saturday, Nov. 12, 8:00 p.m.). Dylan's born-again Christian period in the early '80s may have grabbed some attention, but the onetime Robert Zimmerman was bar mitzvahed in Harding, Minnesota, and the images and ideas of Judaism and the Hebrew Bible run through his music. (As in: "God said to Abraham, 'Kill me a son.' Abe said, 'Man, you must be puttin' me on.'")