One of the ways you can categorize documentaries is based on what they “document”. An event, a person, a place, a time, a process… The title of “Lost town” would suggest that it is about a town, that is lost. It is, however, much more time and energy was spent on the process of rediscovering, remembering, recreating the town. I was hoping to find out much more about Trochenbrod, the only all-Jewish town to ever exist outside of Palestine” than I did. On the other hand I know a lot how the person whose passion this process was felt about it at any given time.
Maybe I was after the impossible, because there is so little left from the town. No structure of any kind is left and most of the photographs in the movie were saved by the only non-Jewish resident and mostly showing people. I haven’t seen Regina yet–which is a movie about the first female rabbi, based on the single photo left of her–but this must be similar in the sense that there was only one photo left where at least some of the town’s main street is visible. Clever animation was used to make that into a town, but after a while it got repetitive, no matter how fancy the animation looked at first.
At the end I was left with the feeling that this movie is more of a mental construct than a physical one. The creator of the project keeps going back to the same empty road and envisions the life that used to surround it. He created this special mental and emotional image even before he went there and then became obsessed with it. (His words, not mine.)
Having said that you do meet the survivors and descendants of this special town in the movie and hear their stories too. For that it is worth watching. Than you hope there will be a movie or book that will tell even more about the place and its inhabitants. Seeing the movie also wet my appetite to read the Safron Foer’s ‘Everything Is Illuminated‘, which is ending up at the same place.
- Page at Jewishfilmfestivals.org
- Official site
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- IMDB summary: Lost Town’ tells the story of one man’s obsessive search to get closer to his deceased father by uncovering the story of his family’s town of Trochenbrod. First made famous by Jonathan Safron Foer’s ‘Everything Is Illuminated’, Trochenbrod was the only all-Jewish town to ever exist outside of Palestine. Trochenbrod’s 5000 Jews were obliterated by the Nazis, except for 33 townspeople who escaped the massacre there. This personal search triggers a resurgence of interest in the town and reconnects the few remaining survivors who hadn’t seen each other in over 60 years. ‘Lost Town’ utilizes contemporary documentary footage, original animation, and survivor testimonials to tell the story of how far one will go to claim their sense of identity.
* As a member of the committee helping to put on the Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, I preview movies to help decide which ones to play at the Festival. I watched this movie as part of this volunteer effort.