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Film In Focus from Silverdocs: Four Seasons Lodge

The house was packed tonight at the world premiere screening of FOUR SEASONS LODGE, a crowd-pleasing look at a group of Jewish Holocaust survivors who cling to one another in their golden years at a shared bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains north of New York City. These remarkable people, a collection of real "characters" are in their final years and it is clear that once they pass, a vital link to the history of what they witnessed threatens to be lost. The film's wildly enthusiastic reception at SILVERDOCS promises an equally strong reaction from potential distributors in the weeks ahead.

In 2005, New York Times journalist Andrew Jacobs found a group of Holocaust survivors who, since 1979, have spent their summers together at the Four Seasons Lodge, one of the few remaining bungalow communities hidden in upstate New York’s lush Catskill mountains. Jacobs was so mesmerized by the group that he returned as a filmmaker to document the rich traditions, lifelong friendships, and collective memory of the residents before they disappeared.

Now in their 80s and 90s, the German and Polish Jews are among the few who continue the Catskill summer vacation tradition, once known as the "borscht belt circuit". The film reveals a number of engaging personalities. Lodge president Carl patrols the grounds, resolving issues and squabbles. Vice president Hymie’s handyman skills and humor are always in demand. Genya and Olga, friends for over 65 years, confide and argue like sisters. Jacobs shows them in the present, and traces their history through revealing archival footage and photos.

As summer nears its end, the Lodge’s future is uncertain: some residents push for its sale while others are adamant that their refuge remain intact. The film is a very warm and winning portrait of this unique sub-culture that will only be a memory as the last remaining members leave their earthly coils in the comng decade.

Full disclosure: I am the son of Holocaust survivors who spent every summer of my childhood in a similar community. This made this film all the more poignant. In fact, this coming week, I will meet my 83-year-old mother and drive her to a similar Catskill Mountains community for her annual summer sojourn. Art imitates life imitates art.

For more information on the film, log on to: www.fourseasonsmovie.org

Sandy Mandelberger, SILVERDOCS Dailies Editor

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