Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

No Place on Earth

No Place on Earth

Rated: PG-13 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 19, 2013 Released by: MAGNOLIA PICTURES

This new dramatized documentary (which could serve as a fine companion piece with Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness) with dirge-like music may not add up to a real gripping Holocaust experience, but it opens up another aspect of the atrocities in western Ukraine. It may be difficult to keep track of the performers and the "talking heads" in an amazing tale of survival. Far longer than someone like Saddam Hussein had to endure.

No Place On Earth, helmed by co-author Janet Tobias, lets survivors freed by the Russians "thank the cave" as New York spelunker Chris Nicola provides the evidence for the filmmaking technique. From items and graffiti it was determined that Jews found their way below ground to hide from Nazis in the early 1940s.

The lives, particularly of the Stermer and Wexler families from the memoirs of the former's Esther (essentially a heroine, as well as Saul, Sam and Yetta), become quite a tribulation over the better part of two years (511 days) under dank, variable conditions. Water droplets and nocturnal food runs by men kept them going; the long days and nights wreaking of sewage before some finally were shot by authorities before others found the same kind of unsanitary sanctuary.

A dark reality does gain its footing in its reenactments of remarkable, intrepid people to provide probably enough effective melodrama for discerning art house patrons. What these dwellers went through even interspersed with extensive interviews before more cruelty resurfaced (in Ukraine) and even in one case by Ukrainians to block a cave entrance before traumatically reaching sunlight turns out to be a wrenching, if affectingly distracting historical reinterpretation.

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No Place on Earth        B                     B 

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