Icarus Films has a rich and eclectic library of DVD and Blu-ray releases. These range from insightful documentaries to some of the best foreign language imports to be found from any source.
And then, Icarus, from time to time finds the unusual and interesting that don’t quite fit into any particular category. Example, last November they released the double-disc DVD titled Adventures of Modern Art … and then there was also the fascinating Mondovino: The Series from the spring of 2015. Interesting and offbeat.
On Feb. 23, we take a tour of the language that has delivered such words to the English vocabulary as klutz, chutzpah, kvetch, bubbe (remember the doomed Harry Ellis in Die Hard, “Hans, bubbe, I'm your white knight" … BANG), nosh, schlep, schmooze, spiel and more. These words, and the language itself, are the subject of documentary filmmaker Nurith Aviv’s Yiddish, which will be available, as mentioned, on DVD from Icarus Films on Feb. 23.
Yiddish, a mish-mash of German, Hebrew and other Eastern European languages, has had an interesting history and Aviv, a French filmmaker who was born in Tel Aviv in the spring of 1945, has turned her focus on the period “between the wars” to look at the modernist influence and the avant-garde literature, especially the poetry, that flourished during the period.
To construct a narrative that wouldn’t see the viewer’s eyes glaze over, Aviv selected seven individuals — unconnected, from around Europe and the Middle East — to talk about what the language means to each them … and, how they connect to writers from the “between the wars” period.
For example, Lila Thielemans, who lives in Paris, focuses on the poetry of Anna Margolin (author of a collection of her poems titled “Lider,” was published in 1929).
Other poets in the discussion are Yehoyesh (a prolific Lithuanian writer who emigrated to the United States in 1890), Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, Peretz Markish (executed by Stalin in 1952 … author of poem collections titled “Mayn Dor” (1929) and “Brider” (also 1929)), Celia Dropkin (fled Russia in 1910 … author of “Heysn Vint” and more), Avrom Sutzkever (escaped the Nazis in occupied Vilnius and was able to save valuable writings from destruction … one of his collection of poems is titled “Lider fun geto”) and Debora Vogel (murdered by the Nazis in 1942 … celebrated poet before her death).
Like we said, Icarus Films’ Feb. 23 DVD release of Yiddish doesn’t quite fit into a specific category, but it is fascinating none the less. It is presented in a mix of French, English, Hebrew, Polish and Yiddish, with English subtitles throughout.
As a bonus, the DVD release of Yiddish includes the 2020 short film from Nora Claire Miller, Peter Miller and Amy Linton titled Egg Cream.
Also new to the DVD release calendar in February is documentary filmmaker Sam Soko’s award-winning Softie. It will arrive on Feb. 16.
Kenya, the land of tourists and safaris, has gone, step by step towards becoming a more dangerous place and the fear is that the corruption that has seeped into the fabric of the political landscape may make this the next Somalia; Nairobi the next Mogadishu.
Soko’s film focuses on former news photographer Boniface “Softie” Mwangi, who put aside his career to be a voice against the corruption that has become like a cancer upon his country. For seven long years he has taken to the streets, to protest … and in the process, has become a leader of a movement demanding that the political process be cleaned up and the corruption swept away (his life is always in danger).
Softie is presented in English, Kiswahili and Kikuyu with English subtitles.
Bonus features include a Q&A session with director Sam Soko.