Tova Beck-Friedman (USA)
A multi media artist working in film, video, photography and sculpture and a recipient of several grants and artistic residencies.
Her work has been shown internationally in festivals, museums, galleries and on television including: The International Artists’ Museum, at the 50th Venice Biennale; The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC; Yeshiva University Museum in New York; The Norwegian Short Film Festival; The Jerusalem Cinematheque and The Newark Museum.
At age seventeen, following her liberation from Bergen-Belsen Bracha Ghilai came to Israel to start her life over. As part of her healing process she established a puppet theater. Sixty years later, surrounded by her puppets Bracha recalls the dire events of her youth. Through a mix of storytelling, puppetry and archival photographs we experience the anguish of her narrative while she unlocks chapters from her painful past. Her stories range from the heart-wrenching description of her separation from her nephew, Nisan, to the powerful and poignant account of incredible power of endurance, survival and the guilt that accompanies it.
A cine-poem about the space between suffering and life lived; about survival and the unforgotten pain.
The Poem: Pregnant with the Dead
by Susan Rich
I am a woman swollen with the history of my dead, great aunts and second cousins murdered
in the old country—bloated with fragments of survivors
who hid months in garbage cans, others in partisan forests; I’m their bandaged daughters gauzed from toe to forehead
to keep safe from search patrols, from their first rapes.
Yes, I am a body awash in stories of noodle kugel, borscht— watch the heavy arms of the women waving like sails
as they knead challah each Friday morning,
can’t conceive of an afternoon free.
What can I do with the women who occupy my vertebrae,
take over my hips and tongue?
They say coconut bars, mundel bread, hamantaschen.
They say that’s your problem as they stride
into my kitchen, toss out the nonfat yogurt, the tofu treats.
It is a rumba of before and after.
And of course, many volk murdered—
abducted our girls, butchered our sons.
And now, my dead tell me, it’s time to enjoy a brioche—
a week in the Disneyland.
Don’t my dead deserve to mist their skin with Shalimar
at the airport perfume cathedrals? Enough time spent on nightmares!
Instead let us hike up the heat, make selfies.
And later, when it quiets on the hotel balcony—
we vanish like light vessels, almost escaped out to sea.
Published in CCAR, Fall 2019, forthcoming in 101 Jewish Poems for the 3rd Millennium
Film — Tova Beck-Friedman
Poem — Susan Rich
Dancer — Juliet Neidish
Cinematography —Tova Beck-Friedman & Avis Boone
Editing — Tova Beck-Friedman
Sound recording — Jack Straw
Archival footage – from the public domain
Music — Yusuke Tsutsumi “Lamentation for Those Rootless”.