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Jealous of the Birds 2011

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Seventh Art Releasing, 1614 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046; 323-845-1455
Produced by Jordon Bahat
Directed by Jordon Bahat
DVD , color, 78 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Ethics, Jewish Holocaust, Human Rights, International Relations, Law, Europe, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, World War II, History, Storytelling

Date Entered: 03/14/2014

Reviewed by Jennifer Dean, Graduate of the CUNY Graduate Center MALS program with thesis on female filmmakers.

Jordon Bahat in his film Jealous of the Birds attempts to answer the question of why his grandparents at the end of World War II after being released from Concentration Camps chose to stay in Germany. Bahat’s grandmother, Rusja Orlean, in her interview tells him, “This is not a story. This is a life. You can only say this. A story is something else.” Through this film Bahat, nonetheless, creates a story. He frames the film with a story from Frankfurt (his grandparent’s home) where two strangers meet and play chess. What neither man realizes is that one is a former S.S. officer and the other a former Concentration Camp victim. This anecdote provides the driving force of the various interviews conducted in the film. Not only does Bahat question his family and other Jews who remained in Germany after the war but there is an incredibly powerful interview with the daughter of a father who identified himself as a Nazi, psychologist and sociologist Barbara Koster. This is a new take on a subject that has been explored in numerous films, stories, theories of memory and essays. The diaspora of German Jews is well documented but what does it mean for those who stayed behind? As is often the case with powerful documentaries this very personal journey takes on universal themes and tackles not only the question of why Bahat’s family and other Jewish families remained in Germany but also the larger question of coping with the aftermath of the Holocaust and genocide – not only does this film apply to Germany but it recalls interrelations of aftermath in South Africa, Cambodia, post-slavery United States, Rwanda and so many other places. However, the film does address the unique issues present in post-World War II Germany. So many Jews were given the opportunity to leave Germany which only compounds the experience for those who chose to stay.

The film has a wonderful lyrical quality thanks to Bahat’s editing and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer and Aleksey Igudesman, somewhat masking the monstrousness of the subject with the beauty of the filmmaking. Not to suggest that the reality of the “life” is not depicted in the film but viewing it through the lens of the filmmaker does make it more digestible. In that way it’s reminiscent of this year’s Academy Award winning narrative film 12 Years a Slave (also scored by Hans Zimmer) which unflinchingly presents the realities of slavery but with such beautiful cinematography and performances that the experience provides a window into reliving the horrors of history. Bahat also uses filmmaking and concepts of representation to provide a philosophical structure to the emotional elements of the film. He depicts tape recorders labeled with the names of the interview subjects as the voiceover of the interviews are heard. Much of the found footage is framed within an old 1950s television set. He constantly reminds the audience that he is the intermediary presenting the story, as his grandmother told us he would be from the very beginning. Jealous of the Birds would be an excellent asset for not only a course on documentary or media studies but for numerous other disciplines as well. Paired with a documentary such as One Day After Peace (following an Israeli woman who goes to South Africa in order to learn more about Truth & Reconciliation after the killing of her son by a Palestinian), or a narrative film such as Kinyarwanda (about the possibility of forgiveness in post-war Rwanda) the film would provide a different perspective on reconciliation and the concept of forgiveness. As Izzadore Kaminer a psychoanalyst survivor specialist interviewed in the film remarks “you cannot undo it.” So the question remains and is so palpable in this documentary – how do you survive after the catastrophe has happened? And that question in this film applies both to the victims and the perpetrators.


  • Best Original Score Rhode Island Film Festival