In Search of Happiness (V Poiskach Schastia) 2005
Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by St. Petersburg Documentary Film Studio and “Atelier-Film-Alexander”
Directed by Alexander Gutman
DVD, color, 88 min.
Sr. High - Adult
Jewish Studies, Russia, Communism
Date Entered: 05/25/2007Reviewed by Michael Fein, Coordinator of Library Services, Central Virginia Community College, Lynchburg, VA
This gem of a production gives the audience a “slice of life” view of some of the last residents in Birobidzhan. This locale, which is along the Trans-Siberian Railway, is the capital of the Jewish Autonomous Region. It was established by Stalin in 1928 and formally organized in 1934 in the Khabarovsk Territory in what is commonly known as the Far East. The documentary focuses on one Boris Rak, whose father was the first certified tractor driver in the region, and his gentile wife, Masha. They raise pigs, who are named after Russian politicians, and do not even know when the Jewish holidays occur. In one conversation, Boris objects to the Orthodox crucifix on the wall in his home while expressing his desire to have something of the “Jewish god, David” on the wall… He has a son in Israel to whom he writes of affairs at home. One rather poignant scene is of Boris listening to Yiddish songs on a gramophone one evening. Interspersed are black-and-white newsreel and propaganda footage of the settlement and events in the Jewish Autonomous Region. These are really very fascinating and are in both Russian and Yiddish. The closing scene is of a funeral procession – the open casket borne on a tractor-pulled trailer while a mourner shields the remains from the rain with an umbrella. In front of the procession a friend holds a portrait of the deceased and the family marches behind the casket. A small band marches in the procession and away from the burial site to close the production.
Technically, this is very good to excellent. There is no English in the soundtrack, only subtitles. These have a few misspellings which are actually quite endearing. This award-winning production is highly recommended.
- Winner, Russian Film Festival, 2006
- Honorable Mention, Cinema du Reel, 2006