Hungarian director Diana Groó is in Jerusalem these days presenting her new film, called ”Regina” (63 mins). I have followed the talented director for years, and saw a rough cut, that impressed me. How to make a film about a woman, where there is only one existing photo…
The now finished film is taken for screening at the Jerusalem Film Festival that runs until July 13 including (apart from feature films) two documentary sections (one of them competitive) and a section named Jewish Experience, where ”Regina” is placed.
Here comes the fine description of the film in the catalogue of the festival in Jerusalem:
”Diana Groó’s documentary tells the story of Regina Jonas (1902-1944), a strong woman who made history by becoming the first properly ordained woman rabbi in the world. The daughter of an Orthodox Jewish peddler, Jonas grew up in Berlin’s Scheunenviertel, studied at the liberal Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (College for the Scientific Study of Judaism) beginning in 1924, and was ordained in 1935. During the Nazi era and the War, her sermons and her unparalleled dedication brought encouragement to the persecuted German Jews. Regina Jonas was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. The only surviving photo of Jonas serves as a leitmotif for the film, showing a determined young woman gazing at the camera with self-confidence.
Through graceful and poetic use of archival footage, Diana Groo brings us a
story of a person whose image is known though one photograph alone. Scenes from Jewish life in Berlin during the early twentieth century come to life: synagogues, Jewish schools, parks, streets, and newsreels permeate the film, while a gentle voiceover handled expertly by Dánel Böhm and Daniel Kardos tell us this unique story. What may have seemed a challenge for a filmmaker, turns into the film’s greatest creative trait.”
An excellent interview with Diana Groó is to be found at the online magazine “Midnight East”, Ayelet Dekel is the writer. In the interview Groó talks about the difficulties in getting funding for the film in Hungary, “a Nazi country”, she calls it. “So it was very difficult to find producers,” Groó recalled, “then, like a miracle, a friend of mine appeared from London – George Weisz, he’s actually the father of Rachel Weisz the actress. George has Hungarian roots, he left Hungary in 1938, luckily, they left for London, so they survived. He’s a good friend of mine and he liked my previous films. He liked this topic and this story, and he supported the film with his foundation, and later German co-producers also joined the production.”