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Arts & Culture

POV: Joe's Violin/Shalom Italia

Brianna Perez playing Joe's violin.
Courtesy of Bob Richman
Brianna Perez playing Joe's violin.

Airs Monday, July 31, 2017 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Bond between Holocaust survivor and schoolgirl; brothers who seek a cave where they hid from Nazis

On the run from Nazis, three Italian Jewish brothers spent months during their childhood hiding in a cave in the Tuscan countryside.

Nearly 70 years later, after emigrating to Israel, the three reunite in the country they were forced to abandon and rediscover their hiding place.

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“For years I’ve wanted to find that cave, the place to which we owe our lives,” says Bubi, the youngest of the trio.

Amid hearty Tuscan meals and sweeping landscapes, the octogenarians’ quest unexpectedly swells with humor and clashing memories in "Shalom Italia."

Directed by Tamar Tal Anati, the film has its national broadcast premiere on the PBS documentary series POV.

The feature film will follow the Oscar®-nominated short “Joe’s Violin,” in which a donated musical instrument forges an improbable friendship between a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor and a 12-year-old Bronx school girl.

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Retracing their steps, the brothers in "Shalom Italia" are as different as can be. Emmanuel, the oldest and a world-renowned anthropologist and archaeologist based in Israel, simply recalls misery and only agrees to the journey to make Bubi happy. “Why search for it? I don’t want to remember,” he says.

Meanwhile, Andrea, an athletic physicist just two years younger than Emmanuel, remembers an enchanted childhood: “Those were wonderful times. We lived in the woods, played Robin Hood and collected mushrooms. I had fun during the Holocaust.”

However, Bubi, 4 1/2 at the time, barely remembers the cave. “I don’t know whether family stories and my memories overlapped. It’s all a bit vague.”

“It’s human for our memories — personal or shared — to become a source of our identity,” said filmmaker Tamar Tal Anati. “Whether that memory comes from one ‘truth’ is explored by Bubi, Emmanuel and Andrea. Often it seems any particular moment can only be accurately constructed when everyone is involved, as each person’s particular recollection of an event helps piece together a larger mosaic of a shared experience. I hope Shalom Italia will inspire American audiences to reexamine their own stories and history.”

Unalike as they are, Bubi, Andrea and Emmanuel are undoubtedly brothers. They bicker over driving directions, recipes and how exactly their time in the cave should be remembered.

Probing the boundaries between history and myth, the brothers soon learn their memories are not so easily unraveled.

They can’t agree whether the family hid valuables with a village neighbor, or whether the bow and arrows they played with in the woods were bought at a store or fashioned by hand.

“History is full of doubts,” Emmanuel, says, to which Bubi impatiently replies, “You keep doubting and contradicting everything and saying it’s not true over and over again.”

“More than 70 years after the Holocaust, the youngest survivors are advancing in age. Both ‘Joe’s Violin’ and ‘Shalom Italia’ raise compelling questions about how we will continue passing on that generation’s memories,” said POV Executive Producer Justine Nagan.

“In ‘Joe’s Violin,’ those connections are made across cultural and economic lines, reminding us how often our lives are woven together across common divides. On the other hand, 'Shalom Italia' compels us to probe the limits of memory and recognize its inherent malleability.” Nagan continued, “Despite the gravity of the history, both films are immensely enjoyable and uplifting work that speak to the resiliency of humankind.”

WATCH ON YOUR SCHEDULE:

These films will stream online on pov.org in concurrence with their broadcast.

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POV is on Facebook, Google +, and you can follow @povdocs on Twitter.

#JoesViolinPBS #ShalomItaliaPBS

CREDITS:

Director: Tamar Tal Anati; Producers: Tamar Tal Anati, Tina Leeb, Jürgen Kleinig; Executive Producer: Hilla Medalia: Editor: Boaz Leon; Writer: Tamar Tal Anati; Cinematographer: Emmanuelle Mayer; Soundtrack: Kai Tebbel; Music: Kobi Vitman; Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan, Chris White.

"Joe’s Violin" CREDITS: Director: Kahane Cooperman; Producers: Kahane Cooperman, Raphaela Neihausen; Executive Producer: Peter Kenney; Editors: Amira Dughri, Andrew Saunderson; Composer: Gary Meister; Director of Photography: Bob Richman; Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan, Chris White.

Brianna Perez playing Joe's violin.
Courtesy of Bob Richman
Brianna Perez playing Joe's violin.