Appellate Judge James A. Stewart is making a better world out of LEGOs.
A divided community brought together by a forgotten holocaust story…and the power of theatre.
There were fewer than 800 who made the journey, but the Dominican Republic invited German Jewish refugees to relocate to their "sparsely settled" island nation. Ironically, the Dominican Republic was fighting Haiti at the time, but the offer—and the landing at Sosúa—were historic.
Theatrical director and composer Liz Swados brought young people together from Washington Heights, a longtime Jewish neighborhood in NYC which is home to more Dominicans than any other US locale, to produce Sosúa: Dare to Dance Together. The stage musical tells the story of Sosúa. Peter Miller and Renee Silverman's film Sosúa: Make a Better World tells the story of the musical.
Sosúa is what you'd expect…and it isn't. As you'd expect, the film follows the evolution of musical from its initial discussions to opening night. What you might not expect is that the emphasis isn't the music, but rather the history, one that still resounds in Washington Heights today. While the show was in gestation, one of the cast members was mugged, highlighting tensions that still reside in the neighborhood. And yet most of the students involved focus their energy discussing the original refugees and hearing Nazi propaganda, which they put into song, comparing it all to Washington Heights today.
Presented in standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the visuals reflect modern documentarian sensibilities—group discussions, highlights from the musical, talking head interviews—with newsreel and tourism footage thrown in for historical context.
Audiences might be impressed by the students' interest in history. Swados tells the story simply at the outset, as she traces a globe with her finger, but the young performers don't stop there, determined to immerse themselves in the experience. Perhaps that learning is what theater—and life—is all about. May they continue that journey throughout their lives.
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