From Tzivi’s Guide to the 2012 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema
TOP PICKS: Documentaries
Of the new documentaries showing in Chicago for the very first time, my top pick is Lost Love Diaries. One year after losing her husband Elmie (to whom she was married for 62 years), Elisheva Lehman returns to Holland with her Israeli-born daughter Shula to look for traces of Bernie—the fiancé she lost in 1943.
And while she searches, we learn all about her. Elisheva’s remarkable spirit is captured in this voiceover: “You know me, Bernie, forever the optimist. When you disappeared after the War, I ran ahead. I didn’t look back, not even once. I decided to live, and I made every new day a festival.” With four children, ten grandchildren, and thirteen great grandchildren at the time of filming, Elisheva Lehman is a true mother of modern Israel!
Tzivi’s Sneak Peek: Watching Yomanei Haavaha Haavudim (Lost Love Diaries) the first time, I was thoroughly entranced by the story. But when I watched it a second time, I became equally entranced by the story-telling. Decades after WWII, it is difficult to make a film about the Holocaust that feels not only genuine but also totally fresh, and for this I credit writer/director Yasmine Novak.
Lost Love Diaries is only 53 minutes long, so I can imagine the hours and hours Novak suffered in the editing room, deciding which clip to use when to make her story unfold to best advantage. Elisheva (also called by her Dutch name ”Ellis” and sometimes even by her English name “Alice”) is a terrific subject, and her story could have been told a dozen different ways. So the challenge of finding the right mix of past and present, memories and interviews, first-person and third-person, laughter and tears, and then stitching it all together so seamlessly, can not be underestimated.
The fact that I spent hours on Google afterwards learning more about Elisheva and others mentioned in Lost Love Diaries (such as Dutch rescuers Wop and Heiltie Kooistra) is a tribute to Novak’s capacity to lure me in with just the right details, and make me so eager to know more. Elisheva and her daughter have written a book (aluded to in the film) which has now been published in Dutch and Hebrew. I hope it gets published in English too, and if it is, then I will certainly read it. But regardless, for me Lost Love Diaries will always be a model of a perfectly constructed documentary short–full stop.
So kudos to Elisheva Lehman for a life well-lived and kudos to Yasmine Novak for a story well-told!