Monthly Archives: February 2018

BIG NEWS ABOUT LESLEA NEWMAN—- Jewish Lesbian Author Lesléa Newman Gives Her Regards to (off) Broadway!

BIG NEWS ABOUT LESLEA NEWMAN—- Jewish Lesbian Author Lesléa Newman Gives Her Regards to (off) Broadway!

Lesléa Newman has marked many milestones in her literary career including serving as the poet laureate of Northampton, receiving a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and having her children’s book, Heather Has Two Mommies read into the Congressional Record by an irate Senator. StilBIG NEWS ABOUT LESLEA NEWMAN—- Jewish Lesbian Author Lesléa Newman Gives Her Regards to (off) Broadway!l, she never dreamed that a short story of hers would be adapted for the stage as a musical.“I grew up in New York and was raised on musicals,” says Newman, thrilled about the upcoming production. “My father used to sing ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ from Oklahoma! on Sunday mornings while scrambling eggs. This is a dream come true.”Newman’s short story “A Letter to Harvey Milk” is the title story of a collection originally published by Firebrand Books in 1988. Thirty years later, it is opening at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row in NYC and the author couldn’t be happier.“I have seen a previous production of the show, when it was part of the New York Musical Festival in 2012,” she said. “I was very moved by it. The show’s eighteen original songs add a new layer of emotional depth to the story.”“A Letter to Harvey Milk” centers on Harry Weinberg, a 77-year-old widower and Holocaust survivor, who takes a creative writing class at a local senior center. When he writes a letter to Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay politician, to fulfill an assign- ment, his life and the life of his teacher, a Jewish lesbian, change in unexpected ways.The short story, “A Letter to Harvey Milk” was the second place finalist in the 1987 Raymond Carver Short Story Competition. It was previously adapted for the stage as a one-person show which was performed all over the country as well as in Germany and Israel. A version of the story was performed on Canadian Public Television and won a Gemini (the Canadian equivalent of an Emmy). The musical, A Letter to Harvey Milk received five awards at the New York Musical Festival in 2012 including Most PromisingMusical, and was also a 2012 Richard Rodgers Award Finalist. The creative team for the musical, A Letter to Harvey Milk include Ellen M. Schwartz (Book and Lyrics); Cheryl Stern (Book and Additional Lyrics); Laura I. Kramer (Book andMusic) and Jerry James (Book). It is being directed by Evan Pappas and produced by Lisa Dozier King. The cast includes Adam Heller, Julia Knitel, Cheryl Stern, Michael Bartoli, Jeremy Greenbaum, Aury Krebs, and CJ Pawlikowski. Previews begin February21 and the show opens on March 6.




This Valentine’s Day, the Comedy Video Site “shares custody” of its LGBTQ+ content as a Branded Channel on Queer Streaming Service, Revry, it’s official “Baby Papa.”

From a whirlwind affair coming off the success of their joint release, Gay of Thrones (the queer-themed comedy recap series), Funny Or Die and premiere queer streaming network, Revry, are making their “love official” this Valentine’s Day by committing to showcasing the best in queer comedy and birthing a Funny Or Die “lovechild” channel on Revry’s streaming platform. Revry will be the official “Baby Papa” and host this specially curated Funny Or Die Channel on it’s online, mobile, and OTT platforms with FOD comedy selected by and for queer audiences.

“We’re excited about this branded channel partnership.” said FOD Vice President of Programming, Chris Michael. “Revry has such a fresh, progressive audience. It made perfect sense to showcase our vast LGBTQ+ content with such an innovative network.”

Revry’s subscribers will be treated to a specially-tailored Funny Or Die Channel featuring comedy gems such as Gay of Thrones, Throwing Shade Podcast, Mariah Carey’s Holiday Sketchtacular, Jared & Ivanka Series, and hilarious Funny Or Die Originals like parodies of The Handmaid’s Tale, Sexual Assault Survivor’s Toolbelt with Tatiana Maslany, the Mike Pence Shame Cube, Tegan And Sara’s Haircut History, and more that LGBTQ+ audiences will love.

“Given Funny Or Die’s stellar reputation in pushing edgy, young comedy voices, a content partnership with our youth-driven, boundary-pushing brand was a natural fit,” replied Damian Pelliccione, CEO of Revry. “We are excited to be FOD’s official queer ‘Baby Papa’ and highlight their best queer comedy on our platform.”

Revry’s Funny Or Die Channel launches live Wednesday, February 14th across Revry’s streaming apps and website. New and original content from Funny Or Die and will be updated regularly.

You can check out REVRY’s Funny Or Die Channel Here on Revry, where you can also get caught up on Gay of Thrones. And check out these two new original comedy series on Revry:

The Gay Husbands of San Francisco – February 9th (Original Series)The Gay Husbands of San Francisco takes a no-filter, hilarious look at the contemporary gay scene as it chronicles the lives and loves of six multi-ethnic gay men in the City by the Bay. Link: Gay Husbands of San Francisco

In the Dollhouse with Lina – February 16th (Original Series) In the Dollhouse with Lina is a Weekly Talk Show. Think pop culture, fashion and throwbacks. “Laugh-In” meets “Madame’s Place” dazzled with “Bewitched” and sparkles of “I Dream of Jeannie” all inside a type of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” and a lot of New York sass with the infectious Lina, hosting within her DollHouse surrounded by her very own collection. Every week the mystery guest is revealed that day by Magical 8 Ball…so you never know who’s going to pop in! Guests include Whoopi Goldberg, Carson Kressley, Candis Cayne, Sherry Vine, Lady Bunny, Justin Vivian Bond, Bevy Smith and Shequida.

Revry is the premiere queer digital media network for the inclusive 21st century LGBTQ+ community. As the first-ever global queer streaming service, Revry offers its members a uniquely curated selection of domestic and international entertainment that includes iconic narrative and documentary films, cutting-edge series, groundbreaking podcasts, music albums and videos, and originals. Revry is available worldwide on seven OTT, mobile, and online platforms, and hosts an exclusive linear channel on Pluto TV. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Revry is led by an inclusive team of queer, multi-ethnic and allied partners who bring decades of experience in the fields of tech, digital media, and queer advocacy. Follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @REVRYTV. Go Online to:

About Funny or Die
Currently celebrating its ten year anniversary, Funny Or Die is a premiere entertainment brand and production studio that creates award-winning comedy. Known for its celebrity driven and political content, Funny Or Die reaches a global audience of more than 60 million people, and is the #1 comedy brand on both Facebook and Twitter. Funny Or Die’s Emmy Award-winning long-form division produces shows like the critically-acclaimed Brockmire for IFC, Emmy nominated Billy on the Street and The Chris Gethard Show for truTV, American Vandal for Netflix, the Sarah Silverman series I Love You, America for Hulu and No Activity for CBS All Access. FOD also makes award-winning TV commercials and Branded Content for brands such as Pepsi, McDonald’s and Chrysler. Funny Or Die’s founders are Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Chris Henchy. Judd Apatow is also a principal partner.

“THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE:— “Animal Desires… Human Lust”

“The Twilight People”

“Animal Desires… Human Lust”

Amos Lassen

Top hunter and explorer Matt Farrell (John Ashley) is kidnapped whilst skin-diving and taken under duress to a remote island. Once at the island he notices strange creatures in the jungle and is introduced to Dr Gordon (Charles Macaulay) and his beautiful daughter (Pat Woodell). Gordon tells him that he wants to use him in his experiments to produce super beings.

Unsurprisingly Farrell manages to escape and while on the loose Farrell comes across Gordon carrying out an experiment which involves removing a live brain. Farrell convinces Gordon’s daughter to escape with him. They free the results of Gordon’s experiments – an Ape-man, a panther woman and a man crossed with a bat. This is the basic plot. It is a very obvious retelling of H.G. Wells “The Island of Dr Moreau” filmed in the Philippines by Eddie Romero. It does have some good special effects and excellent make-up. The panther is a non-speaking role for Pam Grier which involves her ravaging everyone in sight and showing her strength that was to make her a success in future films.

There are some interesting subplots: the Ape man gets a little too interested in Gordon’s daughter, and the head henchman is explicitly driven by his own repressed homosexuality. Ashley is quite the hunk and sympathetic to boot and in the end we root for him. The movie is fun and not meant to be taken too seriously.

There is great scenery and underwater photography however the musical score is overly dramatic and the attack scenes that are very dark. The plot, by and large, takes place in nature. It is highly immersive. It’s not the story that wins us over but the beautiful backdrops. Since the film is just over 80 minutes long and it is a fun way to waste time.

Bonus materials include:

  • Full commentary by film historian, Toby Roan
  • Video Interview with the director, Eddie Romero
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

“THE IMPURE”— Jewish Prostitution in Argentina


Jewish Prostitution in Argentina

Amos Lassen

Daniel Najenson’s personal documentary “The Impure” looks at the institutionalization of Jewish prostitution in Argentina in the early 20th century. During the wave of Eastern European Jewish emigration, thousands of Jewish women were tempted with promises of wealth by Argentinean brothels. The prostitutes and their pimps (in some cases the husbands of the prostitutes) were also newly emigrated Jewish men, who quickly developed a underworld in Buenos Aires. They were seen as “the impure,” provoking the shame of the Argentinean Jewish community. Najenson illustrates this by digging up revelations of his own family’s history and shows that “the impure” were inextricably woven into the social and political fabric of Argentinean-Jewish life. There were vicious organizations and brothels owners that practiced Judaism while trafficking thousands of unfortunate Eastern-European Jewish woman.

“CITY OF THE DEAD”— “Human Blood Keeps Them Alive Forever

“City Of The Dead”

“Human Blood Keeps Them Alive Forever

Amos Lassen

College student Nan Barlow (Venetia Stevenson) is studying witchcraft in the history class of Professor Alan Driscoll (Christopher Lee) and encouraged by him to go to the isolated village of Whitewood, Massachusetts to do first-hand research for a week or two on a term paper on the legends of witchcraft. Her brother and fiancée tease her about it and have voiced their concerns  but Nan checks into the decaying Raven’s Inn, built on the site where in 1692 where the witch Elizabeth Selwyn (Patricia Jessel) was burned at the stake. In retaliation, she put a curse on her executioners. The proprietor of the inn is the starchy Ms. Newless (also played by Jessel) and the only inn employee is the frightened mute girl Lottie (Ann Beach). Only zombie-like figures are seen in the village and they are dressed as monks and conduct rituals for devil worship. John Moxey directs this keeping it in black and white and atmospherically foggy and ghost-like. Writers George Baxt and Desmond Dickinson base it on the story by Milton Subotsky. It is more creepy than scary.

On Candelmas Eve, Nan disappears down the trap door in her room after hearing chants. When her science professor brother Dick (Dennis Lotus) and her concerned boyfriend Bill Maitland (Tom Naylor) do not hear from her, they go their separate ways to the village. Dick finds out that she borrowed a valuable book on witchcraft from Pat Russell (Betta St. John), the newly arrived to the village granddaughter of the blind Reverend Russell (Norman Macowan). The rescuers, however, arrive too late and Nan is made a human sacrifice for uncovering the witch’s coven and learning that Ms. Newless is Elizabeth Selwyn. Tom, though critically wounded by a thrown knife from Newless, lifts the cemetery cross and its shadow destroys all the witches and allows Dick and Pat to safely flee. This might sound confusing but it is not and everything is clearly explained.

The setting is a spooky town that becomes even scarier when Nan discovers that the owner of the Raven’s Inn, Mrs. Newlis is, in fact, a 268-year old witch. Jessel sold her soul to the Devil to regain her life after being burned at the stake. The whole town is her coven, including Stevenson’s kindly history professor (Christopher Lee).

This classic of British horror has been painstakingly restored and is now complete and uncut; including more than 2 minutes of additional footage, which had been cut from the U.S. version.

Bonus Materials include:

  • 45-minute interview with Christopher Lee
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Feature length Commentary with actor Christopher Lee

“BRUCE’S DEADLY FINGERS”— “His Whole Body is Lethal”

“Bruce’s Deadly Fingers”

“His Whole Body Is Lethal”

Amos Lassen

Bruce Le was probably one the actual Lee was up against such greats as Lo Lieh, James Nam, Cheung Lik, Chan Wai Man, Kong Do, Chu Chi Ling, Nora Miao and Leung Siu Wa. This amazing cast really helps the film out and the last 20 minutes is just endless action.

The plot is simple. Le plays Bruce Wong who is looking for “The Kung Fu Finger-Book”, which is a book written by Bruce Lee that teaches the finger kung fu style. We get a very slow and short chase scene. This is a really cheesy Bruceploitation movie. The fights are good, the story is awful and the music is good. Lieh Lo wants to get his hands on Bruce Lee’s “Finger Kung Fu Book”. Bruce Le has to prevent that from happening. In the meantime, Bruce rescues his sister from some slavers and enlists the help of some of his Kung Fu kicking friends to take down Lo. Frankly, I would not watch a movie like this if I did not have to review it. I have never liked this genre and so I am already prejudiced. While there are a lot of fight scenes, they have a tendency to get a bit numbing. The hand-to-hand stuff becomes repetitive as the film wears on. However, whenever Bruce encounters some weapons wielding enemies, things perk up a bit. There is a lot of Kung-fu action, and pretty good acting,

 It opens when Lo Lieh fights Michael Chan and Michael flees. Lo wants the kung fu finger book that is associated with Bruce Lee. (Bruce Lee never had a finger style so this is wrong and not even needed. The kung fu book that everyone wants is a standard plot.) He sends men out to get the guys who seem to have it but they fail.

This movie is the first attempt to replace Bruce Lee with Bruce Le. Bruce Le looks nothing like Bruce Lee. When he tries to look like Bruce Lee and when he tries to copy his martial arts he fails. He has minimal martial arts skills. He is short, scrawny and not good-looking. His fighting skills are below those of the stunt men in this movie.

If you are a fan of the master, Bruce Lee, and other “Bruceploitation films,” then this deluxe Blu-ray and DVD combo is a must see. After malicious gangsters capture Bruce Lee’s ex-girlfriend, a young martial artist attempts to rescue her and the late master’s book containing lethal techniques for killing with one’s fingers. There is plenty Kung-fu action and mayhem including a particularly gruesome scene involving the torture of a girl with a deadly snake!

Bonus Materials include:

  • Commentary track by Michael Worth – author, director, actor, and expert on Bruce Lee, and ‘Bruceploitation films’ !
  • Video interviews with some of the players.
  • High-def transfers of several other ‘Bruceploitation films’ Theatrical Trailers
  • Original Theatrical Trailer in HD!
  • Photo and poster gallery of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, and other ‘Bruceploitation films’.

“THE AFTERMATH”— What Comes After World War III?

“The Aftermath”

What comes after World War III?

Amos Lassen

Steve Barkett stars in “The Aftermath”. He is also the writer, director and producer. That you’ve likely never have heard of him really tells you right away that the film isn’t heralding the arrival of a multi-talented force both in front of and behind the camera. Barkett’s character, Newman, saves kids and rescues women, falls in love, is appropriately haunted by the death of his wife and child from years before and talks of dishing out justice to the scum who invaded his house and killed the women and children he stupidly left behind when he went out on one final supply run. He tells us that he doesn’t want live in a world where baby killers walk around unpunished. Ah, but it is the apocalypse and once he finds water and food that’s safe to consume, fights through the hoard of mutants infesting the countryside, and avoids the radioactive fallout that keeps falling from the sky, he can finally set things right by bringing a few thugs to justice! It’s clear then that Barkett’s heart is in the right place.

The idea for the movie (astronauts return to Earth only to find it’s been nuked) is interesting. The problem though is that if this is Barkett’s personal vision (and with his credits on it and the fact that he also cast his family in various parts it seems clear that it is), the end result causes us to wonder whether his vision wasn’t clouded.

The story is threadbare. After crash landing off the coast of L. A. and battling some mutants, Newman and another astronaut set up shop in a house. (Director Barkett outdoes himself with a laughable montage that includes shots of them putting a bust back on its pedestal and cleaning out the entryway to the home).

Barkett understands that after the world ends, the chances for decent guys to get a woman are great. It’s only natural that a gal is going to be attracted to a guy who isn’t knocking old men’s teeth out, shooting kids and trying to rape her. So it comes as no surprise that he hooks up with a babe who just escaped from the clutches of Cutter, the local evil thug. And it’s no surprise that after she says there is still a woman and little girl being held hostage there that Newman plans an assault on Cutter’s compound. He builds a laser weapon but only uses it as a distraction. Do I sound confused? I am.

 Everything goes according to plan until Newman amateurishly lets Cutter escape. This sets up the inevitable revenge attack by Cutter and Newman’s final confrontation with the gang. As if it is not enough that everything is predictable, the film is afflicted with the usual problems. Watching Barkett perform in front of the camera is like watching an emotionally crippled five-year-old try to act. The editing seems haphazard at best and silly narration is dubbed in. The action scenes are overly staged and not well thought out. Viewers deserve to be entertained, but this film is substandard throughout.

“The Aftermath” isn’t much more than trash cinema, but it is captivating in how much it tries. Between nearly silent bouts of dull exposition come a flurry of dorky fistfights with mutants, messy shoot-outs, and just because, bouts of nudity and rape, there is a thread of a story. Barkett’s vengeance barely reaches a believable degree, but he’s trying.

“WOMEN IN LOVE”— Friends and Lovers

“Women In Love”

Friends and Lovers

Amos Lassen

“Women in Love” is set in 1920s England, where free-spirited artist Gudrun (Glenda Jackson) and her schoolteacher sister Ursula (Jennie Linden) make the acquaintance of lifelong friends Gerald (Oliver Reed) and Rupert (Alan Bates). The foursome attends a picnic in honor of a pair of newlyweds, who put a damper on the activities by drowning in a nearby lake. Evidently unscathed by this tragedy, Gerald and Rupert participate in a nude wrestling match later that evening. Gerald marries Gudrun, Rupert weds Ursula, and the four go on a Swiss honeymoon. The holiday is marred by infidelity and sudden death, leaving Rupert to wonder aloud just what it is that makes men and women behave as they do.

From the opening scene, tracking the Brangwen sisters Gudrun (Glenda Jackson) and Ursula (Jennie Linden) as they leave their house and make their way through a perfectly recreated Nottinghamshire pit village, director Ken Russell takes a full-tilt approach to bringing D.H. Lawrence’s novel alive on screen in all its earthy, sensual and often ludicrously overblown glory.

The film is suffused with earthy carnality and uses Lawrence’s overwrought prose as license for flights of extravagant lyrical reverie: musical interludes, bizarre interpretive dance sequences, copious sex scenes, and the naked fireside wrestling match between Alan Bates and Oliver Reed. Every emotion is amplified to the extreme. People don’t simply kiss in this film; they attack each other. They furiously rend clothes and claw at each other’s flesh, all while Russell’s camera barrels in close. Where Lawrence attempted to probe the complexities of modern sexual psychology, Russell is more interested in using the novel’s sexually charged characters as figures to be placed into a series of fevered tableaux.

The film explores the emotionally complex and sexually intense relationships of two free-spirited couples. Though the film preserves the novel’s post-World War I setting, its heady atmosphere of romantic exploration and existential restlessness comes straight out of the free-love movement of the’60s. As the two relationships develop in parallel, each character attempts to balance their thoughts and feelings with their animal urges. Earthiness, impulse, and spontaneity are counterpoised to rigidity, repression, and authority. Everything blurs together into a frenzy of outrageous emotions and hysterical behavior.

Larry Kramer’s screenplay articulates these ideas mostly via breathless arguments in which characters shout their sexual philosophies at each other, but Russell is too busy chasing ecstatic revelation to give any of these attitudes much consideration. Gerald elaborately compares eating a fig to cunnilingus. Rupert tears off his clothes and sprints through the forest, rubbing his naked body with pine trees and wheat. Gudrun taunts a herd of cattle with a strange dance and Gerald asks her, “Why are you behaving in this impossible, ridiculous fashion?” One is tempted to ask the same question of Russell.

But that would surely be pointless, because the impossible and the ridiculous are exactly what Russell is after here and in all of his films. The way the film handles the homoerotic charge between Rupert and Gerald conjures the burbling intensity of a desire that dare not speak its name. In a film chockfull of fervid sexuality, the duo’s buck-naked grappling session stands out for its rugged, plainspoken eroticism. The film suggests that the two men’s relationship problems fundamentally stem from a sublimated love for each other, one they can’t quite bring themselves to admit is sexual in nature. This aspect of the film was, of course, likely sharpened by Kramer, a playwright and vocal gay rights activist who would go on to found ACT UP, and whose script suggests that as free-spirited and unrepressed as these characters imagine themselves to be, they still don’t know who they really are.

With this film, audacious filmmaker Ken Russell came onto the international stage, drawing on the psychosexual radicalism of D.H. Lawrence’s classic novel to shatter taboos in his own time. Alan Bates and Oliver Reed’s naked wrestling scene is legendary. It has kept this film on the bestseller list for years and now the Criterion Collection brings us a positively gorgeous Blu ray re-mastered version.

DVD Features include:

Two audio commentaries from 2003, one featuring director Ken Russell and the other screenwriter and producer Larry Kramer

Segments from a 2007 interview with Russell for the BAFTA Los Angeles Heritage Archive

A BRITISH PICTURE: PORTRAIT OF AN ENFANT TERRIBLE, Russell’s 1989 biopic on his own life and career

Interview from 1976 with actor Glenda Jackson

Interviews with Kramer and actors Alan Bates and Jennie Linden from the set

New interviews with director of photography Billy Williams and editor Michael Brad sell

SECOND BEST, a 1972 short film based on a D. H. Lawrence story, produced by and starring Bates


PLUS: An essay by scholar Linda Ruth Williams

“AN ACT OF DEFIANCE”— Meet Bram Fischer

“An Act of Defiance”

Meet Bram Fischer

Amos Lassen

In apartheid-ruled South Africa, Bram Fischer, a renowned lawyer struggles to hide his secret affiliation to the nation’s chief resistance movement as he takes on defending a group of its arrested members, including its leader, Nelson Mandela.

On July 11, 1963 Nelson Mandela and other members of the African National Congress are arrested on a farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg and charged with sabotage and the evidence is overwhelming (blueprints for land mines, communist literature). The white South African lawyer Bram Fischer (Peter Paul Muller) is at first hesitant, but eventually decides to defend Mandela and the other accused. His restraint is not unfounded, because like Mandela he is against Apartheid and was often present at the same farm in Rivonia. Fischer must decide whether to choose for himself and his family or serve the public interest. The leaders of the resistance against the South African apartheid regime are caught red-handed and captured and tried in the so-called Rivonia process. Bram Fischer is their lawyer during this process and he, himself, is a member of the resistance group and only by chance was not in Rivonia at the time of the arrest.

Director Jean Van de Veldes rushes through the opening of his film and we never really get to know Mandela, Fischer and the others thus causing something of an apathetic feeling for what we see on the screen. This is especially true in the scenes with Fischer’s family. Proudly the film opens with the claim that it is true to the facts. That may well be true, but a film must above all bring history to life. Nobody wants to have a cold-blooded history lesson for two hours. History must feel lifelike on that big cinema screen and Bram Fischer ultimately does not. It does not help that the outcome of the lawsuit is general knowledge, so there is never any real tension. Van de Veldes film is extremely solid and honest, but in no way exceptional. Perhaps the filming of Mandela’s three-hour speech would have been a better idea?

Everyone knows of Nelson Mandela, but who knows the lawyer who saved him from the death penalty in 1963? Internationally Bram Fischer has been granted that recognition. Bram Fischer deserves a lot of admiration. He did not belong to the oppressed black part of the population but to the privileged white part. However, we learn that his father was a high judge and his grandfather was prime minister of Orange Free State. His wife Molly Krige (niece of Jan Smuts, general in the Boer War) came from prominent Afrikaner families. In 1995, Nelson Mandela expressed his admiration for Bram Fischer: “Fischer was one of the most prominent Afrikaner family, he gave up a life of privilege, rejected his heritage. , and was ostracized by his own people, showing a level of courage and sacrifice that was in a class by itself “.

Fischer was to a degree Jewish and this is fact that we need to know more about. The solidarity between the anti-apartheid fighters and the Communists was evident. According to the government of South Africa, the anti-apartheid fighters were manipulated by the Communists. In 1963 the cold war was still in full swing and both America and the Soviet Union tried to expand their sphere of influence, often making use of local contradictions. Although Bram Fischer has remained virtually unknown outside his homeland, his name deserves to be immortalized. In fact, without Bram Fischer, Nelson Mandela might never have achieved his hero status. Bram Fischer is not only known as a lawyer, but also as a civil rights activist. In the 1940s, he became the leader of the Communist Party SACP, which worked closely with the ANC. After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, where thousands of black citizens demonstrated against the Passing Act, both organizations were banned and went underground with the fight against Apartheid and for the equality of the black majority.

Support came from the Soviet Union and Cuba, communist countries that wanted to assert their sphere of influence in the independence-seeking southern part of Africa. It is Bram Fischer’s job to protect the ten accused from the death penalty.

The film is on the one hand a courtroom drama and on the other hand a portrait of a lawyer who grows into a key figure in the anti-apartheid movement, but at the same time plays with fire because he is still actively involved in the underground resistance.

“ACROSS THE WATERS”— Germany and Denmark

“Across the Waters” (“Fuglene over sundet”)

Germany and Denmark

Amos Lassen

1943 was a difficult time to be a Danish jazz musician playing in a style inspired by Django Reinhardt’s Hot Club of France but being Jewish was even more dangerous for Arne Itkin and his family. Denmark was an exception to the norm in occupied Europe, because of the high survival rate for Danish Jews and the extensive defiance among everyday Danes. Unfortunately, the October 6th tragedy in the seaside village of Gilleleje was the exception to the exception. Director Nicolo Donato takes us to the incident in “Across the Waters”.

At first, Itkin refused to believe there was any danger of French-style round-ups, because of the high degree of autonomy the protectorate government negotiated. He was wrong. As a result, his family was not as prepared as it should have been to find passage to Sweden (where his well-to-do in-laws were already safely established). For a while, Itkin kept carrying his guitar, believing it would help serve their needs in Sweden, but it would not survive the close calls on the road to Gillejele.

Most of the Calvinistic Gilleleje villagers believe it is their Christian duty to aid all Jewish refugees, especially Niels Børge Lund Ferdinansen, the unofficial leader of the skippers and Donato’s grandfather. Unfortunately, “his brother-in-law Kaj is an exploitative war-profiteer—and that’s when he is at his best.”

What happened is probably the ugliest incident in Danish history as a way of portraying the best of the Danish resistance. Both Jews and ostensibly Christian villagers alike make bad decisions and act disgracefully out of fear or panic. Yet, it is true that the overwhelming majority of the village refused to participate in injustice. As Arne and Miriam Itkin, David Dencik and Danica Curcic hardly have time to catch their breath during the first part of the film.

There have been many well-meaning, competently executed survivor stories previously dramatized on the big screen before, but in this case, music makes a difference. We first meet Arne Itkin at a bar in Copenhagen and Denmark has collaborated with the Germans and thus escaped the worst hardships until now. Arne is a jazz musician, husband and father. When his wife Miriam tells him that the Germans are after the Danish Jews, he thinks this is merely rumor. However. it’s not long before the Itkin family has to flee in the dark and darkness of the night.

While more than 7000 Jews were displaced from Denmark to Sweden, Danish seamen earned a lot of money to help them cross the strait. Thus the film shows a slightly darker and more dirty side of the relief work. Donato was inspired by his grandfather’s stories and his sense of reality makes all the events even more touching.