Love in the Shtetl

April 5, 2011 | By

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A young couple meets, falls in love, dances at their wedding, and then must flee the tiny shtetl where they live. This is the plot for “Almonds and Wine,” a new short animated film by Arnold Lipsey.

The story–told without words, and using a simple style of cartoons and magic markers to a background of klezmer music–is a charming, quirky look back at the way some Jews transitioned from the old world into the new. The whole community celebrates together at the couple’s wedding. Returning to their homes, the town’s Jews find Cossack raiders destroying their village. Faced with the reality of pogroms, the couple flees to Canada, where they start a new life together.

With recurring motifs and clever visual storytelling, the main character isn’t so much the bride or groom as it is Jewish culture itself. A horah dance at the beginning is mirrored with a horah at the end. “Almonds and Wine” shows that Jewish life is never the same as it used to be…and yet, in some ways, it will always be the same as it used to be.

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