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Orchestra of Exiles

Release Year:         2012
Studio:         First Run Features
Format:         B&W/Colour; Widescreen; NTSC
Rated:         Not Rated
# of Discs:         1
Running Time:          85 minutes + extras
DVD Release Date:         April 14, 2013
Creator:         Josh Aronson
Screenwriter:         Josh Aronson
Director:        Josh Aronson
E:Top Picks Rating:         9/10

First Run Features Write-up:
In the early 1930s Hitler began firing Jewish musicians across Europe. Overcoming extraordinary obstacles, violinist Bronislaw Huberman moved these great musicians to Palestine and formed a symphony that would become the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. With courage, resourcefulness and an entourage of allies including Arturo Toscanini and Albert Einstein, Huberman saved nearly 1000 Jews–and guaranteed the survival of Europe’s musical heritage.

Featuring commentary by musical greats interwoven with an array of marvelous film footage, ORCHESTRA OF EXILES is a timeless tale of a brilliant young man coming of age, and the suspenseful story of how his efforts impacted cultural history.

•    Interview with Director Josh Aronson
•    Bonus Shorts:
1.    The Power of Music
2.    Music Education: The Legacy of the IPO
3.    Huberman’s Dream
4.    Why Jews Stayed in Europe

Jon Ted Wynne Review:  
There is no question that ORCHESTRA OF EXILES is an important film. It is beautifully made with enviable technical finesse, always a necessity when classical music features in the soundtrack. Write/producer/director Josh Aronson clearly had a vision and a passion for making this film and the results are highly satisfying, highly recommended.

For this reviewer, however, there is another element that the film neglects and while it is perhaps unfair to impose this perspective, it is worth mentioning, perhaps as inspiration for another, related film.

First, why is it that Bronislaw Huberman is so little-known today? Thankfully, this film will go some considerable way to right that wrong. Huberman was a sort of musical Oskar Schindler and it simply isn’t right that his work has not been recognized as it should. Especially in light of the fact today’s Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra is the direct legacy of Huberman’s work and risk.

Second, the Jewish Huberman’s mission and accomplishment stand in stark contrast to someone like Yehudi Menuhin who, as a similarly-lauded Jewish child prodigy of the violin (like Huberman) gave the impression that his shared heritage with the millions of European Jews during the Holocaust was not something to be overly concerned about. In fact, Menuhin was later accused of being a Nazi sympathizer when he stood up to support Wilhelm Furtwangler, the war time conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic.

One might interject: “but this is not a film about Yehudi Menuhin.” No, it isn’t. I leave that to the great documentarian Tony Palmer, whose film (and book) about Menuhin explore why this great child genius of the violin did not fulfill, in adulthood, his musical potential. The answer, at least in part, lies in the fact that he (Menuhin) appeared to close himself off to the suffering of the Jews at this turbulent time in world history. Huberman did not.

Ironically, Huberman, whose playing is still regarded today as legendary is nearly forgotten. Menuhin, whose playing is rarely cited as among the musical greats of the 20th-Century, is still remembered, albeit as much for his service to music in general (establishing music festivals, for example) than his playing which, it is generally agreed, declined as he grew into adulthood.

ORCHESTRA OF EXILES is simply a different film than this comparison might have made it. And while the extra features include some important themes that are not found in the main film itself, the Huberman/Menuhin dichotomy is not mentioned. Is this a missed opportunity to ruminate on another aspect of the injustice of artistic persecution?

Ultimately, Bronislaw Huberman’s compassion and love for humanity influenced and enhanced his musical genius. Despite not being as well-known as he deserves to be, perhaps this is enough. And if Huberman’s legacy lives and thrives in the artistry of the Israeli Philharmonic, as it most surely does, everything else–including ORCHESTRA OF EXILES–is a welcome bonus.