100 Voices: A Journey Home
United States | 91 mins | English
Many of the world's finest Jewish singers return to Poland, the birthplace of cantorial music, for a series of exuberant, history- making concerts in this musical documentary that is both uplifting and deeply moving.
“The subject of Poland for Jews brings up more questions than answers,” says Cantor Nathan Lam. “Most American Jews came from Polish lands. Jewish life itself was defined in Poland.” But the Holocaust was disproportionately carried out on Polish soil, and Jewish ties have been painfully attenuated ever since. “So how do you reconnect with a thousand years of history that’s been so eradicated?” Lam set out to try in 2009, organizing a tour by an assembly of cantors from around the world.
100 Voices, skillfully directed by Danny Gold and Matthew Asner (son of actor Ed Asner), is the fascinating chronicle of that trip, which included a concert at the majestic Warsaw Opera House and a second at Nozyk Synagogue, the only one to survive the war. The documentary not only captures an historic and moving goodwill mission but delves into the cultural history of Jewish Poland, with special regard for the versatility and crossover appeal of the prewar hazzan (cantor). Major stars like the broodingly handsome cantor and Yiddish theater actor Moishe Oysher—whose career came complete with groupies—are captured here in rare film footage and colorful anecdotes, as well as evoked in the jazzy stylings of the memorable American cantors Alberto Mizrahi and Jacob Mendelson, doing their rendition of “Chad Gadya.” Impressive testimonials from the likes of composer Charles Fox (Killing Me Softly with His Song), returning to trace the footsteps of his Polish father, combine with eye-opening scenes of contemporary Poles’ renewed interest in Jewish culture to intone a stirring message of reconciliation and homecoming.