Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (2013) ***½

NR, 38 min.
Director: Malcolm Clarke
Writers: Malcolm Clarke, Carl Freed
Featuring: Aliza Sommer-Herz

The Best Documentary Short Oscar-winner for 2014 saved me from going 0-3 in the short categories of the Oscar pool this year. That movie was “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life”. I don’t really know why I picked it. Perhaps I connected with its subtitle. Perhaps I just thought the Oscar voters couldn’t resist giving an award to a movie about a sweet elderly woman. I didn’t even know if she was sweet. I just assumed because—like all the films of the shorts categories—I hadn’t seen it; nor had most people who didn’t meet the strict voting criterion of the Academy rules on such films.

Well now, thanks to Netflix Instant streaming services, anyone with a subscription to their service can see this sweet Oscar-winner. Had I known what it really was about, I probably would’ve picked it to win for sensible reasons. The Academy has always been a sucker for the Holocaust. The lady of the title is Aliza Sommer-Herz, who was a famous musician before the Nazis decided to ruin everything for everybody. She was (at the time of the filming) the oldest survivor of the holocaust. She passed away just about a week before the Oscars this year.

Unlike many holocaust stories, Aliza’s is one of hope, triumph and joy. As a famous musician, she was interred at a special branch in Auschwitz that housed famous and otherwise privileged Jews in the eyes of the Nazis. The musicians were called upon to provide moral support for the prisoners through performances. As such, Aliza and her friends were responsible for bringing the only joy many of the prisoners saw in the death camps. Her story carries the horrors of the Holocaust and the joy and enlightenment of art, and so is deserving of the attention this documentary brought to her life. I’m just not sure why they didn’t make a feature-length doc about Aliza Sommer-Herz. She could’ve carried it.

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