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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Holocaust > Partisans Of Vilna (DVD/CD set)

Partisans Of Vilna (Holocaust Documentary) DVD/CD Set


DVD Picture: C+†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: B†††† Film: B

CD Sound: B†††† Music: A-



The stories of Poland and what happened there during World War II just continues to be a source of more and more untold stories of the ordeal of Jewish survival against the original Axis Of Evil.Josh Waletzkyís Partisans Of Vilna (1986) was possibly the first-ever documentary in Yiddish, with the DVD offering burned-in subtitles.It was not easy to make, since The Soviet Union still existed and Lithuania was still part of its empire, soon to start crumbling the year of this filmís release due to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.


The film runs 130 minutes and offers a ton of testimony on a little known or still discussed resistance movement amongst the Jews to save them against huge odds against Nazi extermination.Waletzky and producer Anna Kempner went out of their way to now allow a fascist-like Ramboesque mentality come out of the film, sticking with the stories and situations unflinchingly.At the time, the youths that survived were closer to being senior citizens by the time this was filmed, so this was just in time in many ways.


Post-Schindlerís List and because the filmmakers could not go to Vilna at the time, the film seems unintentionally restrained and limited, but was remarkable for its time and historical for all time.I like the use of old-fashioned maps and the stories are long overdue to be told.There are the stories where Jewish resisters tried to pass for non-Jews to smuggle food and armaments, somewhere people were caught, others where they succeeded over and over.There is the idea of catching The Nazis off guard before they got wise, as well as how possession of Vilna kept switching hands over and over again, compounding the situation.


Music was also part of this resistance and the later you get into the program, the more you hear about close incidents that build up the storytelling.Eventually, it paints a picture of some amazing people who refused to just sit back and take genocide.The only afterthought was if people would be able to be this brave again if necessary.There are people who would love to twist that idea in a time where religion and ideology are being hijacked and attacked, so it is those people we need to worry about next.


The 1.33 X 1 image is a bit aged, but looks good otherwise, with a good mix of old and new footage, plus valuable stills.The Dolby Digital is 2.0 throughout, with the program in simple stereo and separate audio commentaries by the producer and director about the same.Other extras include a songbook and teaching booklet that can be found inside the DVD case, text biographies of the producer and director, stills, a text producerís statement, trailers and listings of other great Docurama titles, and a CD of new Grammy Winning recordings from 1991 of the music that backed the resistance.The sound quality is vivid and after watching and listening for hours to the stories, it is an indescribable triumph that is the ultimate highlight of the whole set.This is one of the best Holocaust titles we have seen yet and one of the best packagings Docurama has offered to date, so a mere recommendation seems somehow inadequate, but get it either way.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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