| Jewish and Polish cultures, which were interwoven for centuries, reunite for an unprecedented and poignant event of remembrance, healing, resilience and rebirth in this compelling documentary directed by Matthew Asner (son of Kansas City, Kan., native Ed Asner) and Danny Gold.
This celebration of song, faith and tradition offers a unique look at Polish and Jewish history. The film highlights the current resurgence of Jewish culture in Eastern Europe. Shot on location in Poland during a historic visit in June 2009 of the Cantors Assembly, a professional organization of Jewish cantors, the film follows a charismatic collection of ordained clergy trained in the vocal arts, who help lead their congregations in songful prayers, on an emotional journey to the birthplace of their musical art form.
This epic film features the personal reflections and musical performances in concert of some of the world’s finest cantors, including Alberto Mizrachi of Chicago, who is known as the “Jewish Pavarotti.” It also showcases the talents of acclaimed composer Charles Fox, who is best known for writing the pop songs “Killing Me Softly,” “I Got a Name” and “Ready to Take a Chance Again.” Fox’s original composition “Lament and Prayer,” crafted from the prayer of forgiveness that Polish-born Pope John Paul II placed at Jerusalem’s Western Wall in 2000, is performed at the conclusion of the film. This exceptional documentary demonstrates the positive power of music, its ability to heal hearts and to connect people.
To kick off the in-theater experience, Cantor Nathan Lam of Los Angeles’ Stephen S. Wise Temple will host an exclusive mini-concert. The program will feature contemporary American music and demonstrate how the legacy of Polish Jewish culture has continued to flourish in American popular music. The cantors featured in the documentary will perform a selection of classic American music, including Broadway show tunes from musicals such as “West Side Story,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Les Miserables,” which were composed by writers who can trace their roots to Eastern Europe. Not coincidentally perhaps, the fathers of George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Harold Arlen were all cantors.
This documentary will provide spiritual jolt and inspire viewers of all generations, regardless of their ethnic or religious heritage. The film delves into the Jewish culture that helped produce one of the most artistic and educated societies in all of Europe.
The first trip back since World War II included performances at the National Opera House in Warsaw and at the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, the latter during the ceremony kicking off construction of the new Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The most emotional segment of the film comes when the cantors sing at the Nozyk Synagogue, the only Warsaw synagogue to have survived the Holocaust intact. Audiences will share another powerful moment as they witness a prayer service held just a few feet from the infamous gates of Auschwitz. The series of five concerts paid tribute to over 1,300 professional cantors who perished during the Holocaust.
Janusz Makuch, a Catholic, is introduced in the Krakow leg of the trip. He founded the city’s annual Jewish Cultural Festival in 1988, which is the largest of its kind in the world and now attracts 40,000 predominantly non-Jewish attendees.
Audiences will find watching this documentary to be an exhilarating experience, full of hope and optimism for a better future for mankind. It shows the resiliency of the Jewish spirit and the need to safeguard the oral tradition of singing the liturgy. Of course, the film would be nothing without the vibrant voices of the world’s greatest cantors, backed up by a spirited chorus of young people and a full symphony orchestra. You can’t help but shed tears throughout the vicarious, euphoric thrill that washes over your heart and soul. It deserves consideration as one of the best documentaries of the year.
“100 Voices” will be shown in 500 theaters nationwide at 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday, Sept. 21. These include AMC Town Center 20, AMC Studio 30, AMC Mainstreet 6, Cinemark Merriam 20 and Cinemark Palace 14 The unique, one-night-only format is being coordinated by NCM Fathom, the company best known for distributing live, high-definition broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera to movie theaters 22 times a year. Tickets for “100 Voices: A Journey Home” are available at participating box offices and online at www.FathomEvents.com .
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"