Suffice it to say that the film was a documentary about the Krakow Jewish Culture Festival, an initiative on the part of one dedicated, non-Jewish Pole to recover some of the rich pre-Holocaust culture of his country's past. Fleeting sequences that revisited life in the pre-war shtetls and Jewish urban communities and, with commendable brevity, in the death camps during that dark period of history were montaged with interviews with survivors and the living relatives of those who did not survive. There were also scenes of a modern-day memorial ceremony at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where survivors and their families, along with a small army of rabbis and cantors gathered to remember, yes, but also to mark the triumph of the Jewish people over the attempt to obliterate them from the earth. In the most moving of these scenes, an ancient Torah that had, too, miraculously survived, was unrolled--unusually, to its full length--and wrapped in a kind of protective ritual around an inner circle of those who had lived through, and beyond that monstrous cataclysm.
Much of the footage, though, was devoted to the music of the festival, with cantor soloists, men and women, blending their marvelous voices with great, soaring choruses in the rendering of those profoundly melancholy--and, too, profoundly joyful--songs that are the age-old heritage of the religion. Very lovely and, at times, quite heart-breaking in their all-encompassing humanity. It was a good way to remember, overwhelming all that is potentially cruel and destructive in our species with all that is potentially good and fruitful. I'm glad to have been reminded, and not too late--never too late--that now is as good a time as any to remember what must never be forgotten.