Terrific new documentary about Ruth Gruber, released in NYC in September & finally making its way here… but only to Landmark’s Renaissance Place in Highland Park. Gruber, born in 1911, is still amazingly vibrant, clear-headed, & articulate, bearing witness to great moments of 20th century history with such conviction that only fools would doubt her.
In 73 minutes, filmmaker Robert Richman takes us all the around the world from Depression Era Brooklyn to the first years of Nazi Germany, from the Washington of the New Deal to the Arctic Circle (both the Russian and Alaskan edges) from the Displaced Persons Camps to the Nuremberg Trials.
Ruth Gruber traveled to astonishing places, going everywhere she wanted to go, until she finally met her destiny in the Mediterranean waters off Post-WWII Europe. She boarded a rickety ship & she took photos that made real the plight of Holocaust survivors struggling to reach their homeland. Would there be an Israel today without Ruth Gruber’s photos of the Exodus 1947? Who can say???
Richman is well-known for his contributions to other award-winning docs (e.g., An Inconvenient Truth & My Architect), but this is his first director credit. I’ve read several of Gruber’s books, I’ve heard her speak, & I’ve long known the key facts of her biography. And yet, Richman’s masterful & brilliantly concise shaping kept me on the edge of my seat, so much so that at the end, I hit “Play” & watched the entire screener a second time from the beginning.
Sure, you can wait for a DVD too, but I encourage you to take the trip to Highland Park. Really, even if it takes you an hour each way, do it to honor Ruth Gruber & all the places we can now see through her eyes because she went!
For a related doc, click HERE to read about director Yael Kipper Zaretzky’s ’08 film Displaced: The Bad Boys of Exodus. The two old geezers of Displaced (Ike Aronowicz & Mordechai Rosman) also lend their voices to Ahead of Time.