Film shows food as therapy for two Holocaust survivors

Tue Oct 23, 2012 10:55pm EDT
 
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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For anyone who craves one more hug from a grandma long gone, one more of her chocolate turtle cookies or another whiff of her apple strudel baking in the oven, there is "Oma & Bella".

Scenes from the new documentary about two octogenarian friends living together in Berlin are warm, but the hunger to learn more about their past as Holocaust survivors creates a suspenseful undercurrent throughout the film, which is being released on iTunes and Amazon in the United States on Tuesday.

The sometimes jarring shifts from cozy kitchen scenes of chopping and sautéing to starkly lit interviews in which they reluctantly reveal some of the horrors they survived as Jewish girls in World War Two are purposeful, filmmaker Alexa Karolinski said.

"In the beginning, they basically said, 'You can do whatever you want as long as you don't ask us about then,'" Karolinski said of the agreement with her grandmother - or Oma - Regina Karolinski, and her friend Bella Katz, who moved in to help with Oma's recovery from a hip operation in 2007 and never left.

"I wanted to make a film that was as fragmented as the reality of not talking about the Holocaust," Karolinski said.

"Even if they say they don't want to talk about it, they do. In the weirdest moments. If you go through something so traumatizing, it informs everything you do in your life."

The 75-minute film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, grew out of Karolinski's effort to create a cookbook of Oma and Bella's delicious Eastern European Jewish meals.

The cookbook, available on the film's website, omabella.com, took longer to put together than the film itself since "handfuls" had to be translated into measurable cups and "as long as it needs" into a finite cooking time.   Continued...

 
This undated promotional handout picture shows holocaust survivors Bella Katz (L) and Regina Karolinski (Oma) shopping for ingredients in Berlin, where they share an apartment that is the setting for "Oma & Bella", a documentary about their cooking and its connection to their past. Scenes from the new documentary "Oma & Bella" about two octogenarian friends living together in Berlin are warm, but the hunger to learn more about their past as Holocaust survivors creates a suspenseful undercurrent throughout the film, which is being released on iTunes and Amazon in the United States on Tuesday. The sometimes jarring shifts from cozy kitchen scenes of chopping and sauteing to starkly lit interviews in which they reluctantly reveal some of the horrors they survived as Jewish girls in World War Two are purposeful, filmmaker Alexa Karolinski said. To match Story FILM-OMA&BELLA/ REUTERS/Bella Lieberberg/Handout