Song of the Lodz Ghetto sells out at Ashkenaz Festival screening in Toronto on Sept. 2, 2010

September 18, 2010

A  special screening of the the preview version of Song of the Lodz Ghetto was a significant success and the hit film of the 2010 edition of the AshKenaz Jewish Culture Festival held recently in Toronto. The screening was co-sponsored by the Toronto Jewish Film Festival as a special event.

Fuelled by demand from the large Holocaust survivor community in Toronto, and from devoted attendees of both the film and music festivals, the film sold out three days before the screening and many people were turned away from the on-line ticket office. On the day of the screening, people began to line up at the Sheppard Grande Theatre at 4:00 in the afternoon, three hours before the film was due to start, in the hope of getting tickets. Because of the demand, Ashkenaz Festival organizers released fifty tickets that were being held back for seats that were very close to the giant screen. Many people were turned away at the box office.

After the screening, I spoke briefly to thank those involved in the production, among them cinematographers Robert Holmes and Colin Allison, and recording engineer Danny Greenspoon. The star of the concert performances in the film, Brave Old World’s singer and violinist, Michael Alpert, was present at the screening and received a prolonged round of applause when he was introduced. But the warmest and most extended applause was reserved for the three Holocaust survivors from Toronto who attended the screening, Genia Rybowski, Irving Stal, and Rabbi Peretz Weitzman. The audience, moved deeply by the words of these three in the film, were affected even more by their acftual presence in the theatre, and gave them a lengthy and heartfelt ovation when they stood up after being introduced. It was a highly emotional climax to an emotional evening.

Following the screening, we had a reception at a restaurant near the theatre in the Yonge/Sheppard Centre, attended by about 125 members of the audience who were either friends of the production team or of the sponsoring organizations. Much to my surprise, I was given a loud and very lengthy round of appaluse when I entered the restaurant. The rest of the evening was spent with many guests engaged in a lively discussion about the film and many of the issues it raises.

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