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'Orchestra of Exiles': A Holocaust story

November 01, 2012|By Gary Goldstein
  • Bronislaw Huberman (Thomas Kornmann) in a scene from "Orchestra of Exiles."
Bronislaw Huberman (Thomas Kornmann) in a scene from "Orchestra… (Irina Tubbecke / First Run…)

The remarkable story of the Holocaust-era formation of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra by famed, Polish-born violinist Bronislaw Huberman is engrossingly recounted in the documentary "Orchestra of Exiles."

Writer-producer-director Josh Aronson (2000's Oscar-nominated "Sound and Fury") tracks Huberman's early life as a child prodigy performing violin concerts across Europe through his adult years — transformed as they were by the rise of Nazi Germany.

Stirred by the mounting ravages of anti-Semitism, Huberman, from 1935 to 1939, heroically engineered the emigration of a gifted group of Jewish musicians out of Europe and into then-Palestine.

The result was the startling creation of a world-class orchestra that also provided escape from near-certain annihilation for hundreds of Jewish families.

The acclaimed ensemble, initially conducted by Arturo Toscanini, proved a cultural touchstone and later, in 1948, became known as the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Aronson supports his narrative with an eclectic mix of archival footage and photos, splendid music, strong commentary from such musical icons as Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell, Zubin Mehta and Pinchas Zukerman, as well as testimony from descendants of the original Palestine Symphony plus other observers.

The pervasive historical reenactments and voiceovers, however, while clearly well-intended, often turn this otherwise vital film into an uneasy hybrid of authenticity and artifice.

"Orchestra of Exiles." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At selected theaters.

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