To Sing, To Listen

No Image To Display

: Documentary Short
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Development


Holocaust survivor Guta Goldstein journeys back to Poland, taking with her songs that have sustained her, to perform them again 75 years after liberation.


Many decades after she learned and sang them, Holocaust survivor Guta Goldstein has kept alive a repertoire of songs from the Lódz ghetto that she continues to perform in private. The film charts Guta’s journey back to Poland, to perform the songs that have sustained her, 75 years after liberation.


From early childhood to the present day, Guta Goldstein has used song to reconstruct memories of her family and friends. Polish and Yiddish melodies evoke pre-war memories of joy and comfort alongside mid-war experiences of privation, grief and camaraderie. During project creator and co-producer Joseph Toltz’s experience interviewing over 150 Holocaust survivors in three continents over the course of 22 years, he has not encountered another survivor who uses personal song in this manner. ‘In the absence of material objects that evoke memory visually, Guta’s aural resounding embodies and expresses the complexities of her past in the present.’ The film will share the remarkable story of the place of music in the life of a survivor. It will communicate to the audience that when we are listening to music, we are out of the world and in music. This theme of the ways in which musical testimony connects with us differently to spoken testimony, will lead the style of the film – lyrical and intimate, in which the aural is as immediate and vibrant as the visual. This is a film in which songs ‘tell’ Guta’s story, and inform it. The film will be told through interview, primarily informal in style, as well as by observation, and through moments of lyricism in which the visual and the musical weave together to convey the emotional richness of Guta’s experience, both enriching and painful, of these songs. As we listen to musical testimony, we experience an unrestricted encounter with survival, trauma and hope. We cannot help but be transformed by what is immediately heard, and our perspectives are altered as listening witnesses, heirs to what we have heard. Songbooks commemorating the Holocaust were compiled from 1944 and grouped into subject matter – despair, resistance, renewal – to create a shared memory. Joseph Toltz asks: ‘How do we hear personal musical memories emerging out of the Holocaust experience?’ The film connects to ‘that point of intimacy where our listening sense encounters rare musical experiences, shared intimately with us.’ Besides location filming, we will hear commentary by Antony Polonsky (Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies at Brandeis, world expert on Polish-Jewish history); Bret Werb (music curator at USHMM); and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (Chief Historian, POLIN Museum, Warsaw).


Tim Slade - Director and Producer
Tim’s films have screened at over 70 international film festivals, where they have won best film and audience awards, and have been broadcast in 40 countries. His short I Was Robert Mitchum and his feature documentary 4 were both released theatrically, the latter winning a Gold Plaque at the Chicago HUGO Television Awards, and being nominated for many awards including two Australian AFI Awards. He has worked with actors including the Oscar®, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated actress Sophie Okonedo. Originally from Sydney, Australia, Tim has lived in NYC for the past nine years, and is currently developing a feature film and two TV series.

Derek Wiesehahn - DP
Derek has over 25 years of experience in film and television. Recent credits include the 2018 Tribeca winning short documentary Notes from Dunblane, the Sundance feature documentaries Newtown, How to Survive a Plague (Academy Award® nomination), God Loves Uganda and the 2010 Academy Award® winning documentary short Music By Prudence. Derek also camera operated on the 2011 Sundance winner and Academy Award® nominated documentary feature Restrepo.


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