Saul & Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band
Director: Tod Lending
Nomadic Pictures / Documentary Edge Festival
Did you follow through with that lifelong artistic dream during the recent paid 8-week vacation of Lockdown? Did you pick up the drum-sticks for the first time, or first time in years? Did you write that novel, or paint a picture or fix the leak in the tap?
You’ll be shamed if you didn’t when you see holocaust survivor Saul Dreier decide, at 89, that he’d like to learn to play the drums; that he’d like to learn and share the songs that kept him sane and of sound mind and spirit during that unthinkable time in human history.
The Florida-based retiree puts out an ad – even though his wife and the rabbi think he’s mad – and meets accordion player, then a spry mid-80s fellow transplanted Floridian.
Saul & Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor Band is the documentary account captured over four years by award-winning TV and film director and producer Tod Lending.
The now nonagenarian musicians take their Klezmer-duo action around town – to whoever will smile politely and clap nearly in time. But their dream is bigger. To take it back to Poland, to confront the hurt and heartache and history of their lives and the holocaust that they survived.
There are many amazing things about this film – and there’s a joy to take in the simple notion of wanting to spread happiness, to embrace life, to ‘have a go’ – that it doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you might be if the right intention is there. But perhaps the most amazing thing is watching the evolution of the story; it relies so heartily on the strong characters of Ruby and Saul, hilarious, kind, generous and warm – Lending couldn’t know when he first picked up the camera, as loved ones were lost and as musical hurdles seemed so high, that this Klezmer duo might ever evolve into a band, let alone a traveling one.
The journey they take, and the journey of this film is a mix of pathos and gentle humour, it’s about a spirit and soul that you’ve perhaps seen in some way if you’ve watched things like Young @ Heart – to me there’s no question this film’s maker and team knew to pitch in that direction and its inclusion at festivals almost guarantees that type of watch, that sort of audience.
But there’s an extra layer in here. There’s something so profoundly deep about the gentle soul that wants only to heal and help heal, to feel nourished and to provide some of that potential nourishment for others in the long wake of surviving an insurmountable atrocity.
I felt shamed I hadn’t completed the book-project I planned in my lovely little lockdown spot of faux-retirement. I felt pleased I’d once again picked up the drumsticks a few months ago (and the basketball too) and for the right reason of just wanting to find a happiness, to be healthy and in the moment.
Saul and Ruby could put anyone to shame with the gusto and integrity – they’d be mortified if they ever had that exact effect though of course.