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TREZOROS The Martyrdom of the Spanish Jews of Greece - A precious WWII Document

Treasures (Trezoros) Poster

Again by accident on night number two I came across my second Market documentary discovery,  "Treasures" (Trezoros in  Ladino) of all places in the lobby of the Majestic Hotel which is directly in front of the Grand Palais, loaded with Festival VIPs, and is a late evening hot spot for film confabs over expensive drinks.

Floating through the buzzing scene around midnight i was spotted and cornered by croatian director Arsen Ostojić whose  2012 Yugoslavian postwar tragedy "Halima's Path" I had lavishly praised in print back in L.A.  Tall as an NBA power forward Arsen grabs me and tells me there is a documentary about the Spanish Jews of Greece in WWII that I absolutely have to see. "I've seen a lot of war myself but it made me cry! -- and it's here in the market". 

Arsen met the director Larry Russo in New York and was so impressed with Tezoros that he volunteered to rep it here in Cannes. When  a top director like Ostojić is so enthusiastic about the work of another director you figure there must be something to it, and there definitely was. 

"Yeah, okay, but I don't have a market badge...who's the director?" -- "Larry Russo from New York and here he is right beside me."   We chat and they gift me a couple of Tickets in an envelope and we agree to meet at the screening the next night at 22:30 --a late show in  Salle H of the cordoned off Market zone in the Grand Palais. "Bring friends -- no problem" -- this is a premier  just finished and nobody knows  anything about it yet"'~~ is the   parting shot of the evening. 

The next night  I arrive with three friends a few minutes late hoping not to miss the beginning and we are met at the aporoach to Salle H by Arsen who tells me cheerfully, "It hasn't begun yet -- we're waiting  for you!" --  (to write a rave review, I guess) -- so we settle in in the front row and I notice that  there are only a couple of other people there. Not the best time slot. 

From the very beginning, a lead up to  WWII setting the scene, i realize that this is going to be something special  -- not just another holocaust film, but a discerning  historical document about  little known aspects of the war itself  and a sharp study of the little known sephardic Jewish community in Greece. 

 

Two directors: Larry Russo and Larry Confino
, made this moving documentary in three parts detailing the lives of a  Sephardic community in Greece by interviewing survivors all over the world, but this is much much more than a talking heads film.

The basic story is set in the beautiful, idyllic city of Kastoria where Jews and Christians lived in harmony for over two millennia. In October of 1940 it would all be destroyed after the invasion of Greece by Axis forces. Initially occupied by Italy, the Jewish community remained safe because the Italian soldiers were kind to them and took a dim view of the Germans. However, when Mussolini fell from power the Nazis took control of the town, dooming the community that had existed there since the times of the Roman Empire. The film uses never before seen archival footage, (notably of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini) vibrantly bringing to life just one of the many Jewish communities that had existed in Greece before the end of World War II. "Trezoros" (Ladino/Judeo-Spanish term of endearment meaning "Treasures") is a highly emotional story related by it's survivors, most tellingly by the 90 year old mother of director Larry Russo who could have been a contender as a movie star herself in her youth. More than a holocaust film this is a historical document on a little known corner of WWII action and an important ethnographic study into the bargain -- in addition the story of a scattered family coming together many years later in occasionally surprising circumstances. Fascinating from beginning to end and deserves to be widely seen, not just at Jewish film festivals. 

Next up: KEN SAN

 

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