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Directed by Chantal Akerman

France, Belgium 1989 92 mins. In French

Shot in New York, Akerman’s first English-language film Histoires d’Amerique conjures up an informal history of Jewish life over the past 100 years through a series of eyewitness accounts, re-created by a group of largely unknown actors. All are Jewish of the first and second generation and all have jokes, stories and anecdotal proof from real-life testimony that something that defines them has survived, despite loss, trauma and death. This may be the new world, but the horror of the old is never far from the surface. Akerman once said, “Instead of learning my family’s story directly from my parents, I had to turn to literature.” The film recalls Waiting for Godot, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s shtetl tales, Woody Allen’s Broadway Danny Rose, and the badchen of the old country (the jesters hired to add vim to Ashkenazi weddings before Nazis put an end to that world). As Akerman has said, “When history becomes impossible to bear, there is only one thing to do: send yourself up and laugh.” Nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear award, Berlin International Film Festival, 1989.