|NO PLACE ON EARTH (director/writer: Janet Tobias; screenwriter: Paul Laikin; cinematographers: Cesar Charlone/Eduard Grau/Sean Kirby/Peter Simonite; editors: Deirdre Slevin/Claus Wehlisch; music: John Piscitello; cast: Saul Stermer, Sam Stermer, Sonia Dodyk, Sima Dodyk, Yetta Stermer, Sol Wexler, Christopher Nicola; Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Janet Tobias/Rafael Marmor/Paul Laikin/Nadav Schirman/Susan Barnett/Zita Kisgergely; Magnolia Pictures; 2012-USA/UK/Germany-in English)|
out as a unique real-life adventure
Holocaust story, that touches the heart
by Dennis Schwartz
Tobias, who previously directed a series for TV's
Frontline, directs this harrowing
miracle-like Holocaust survival pic of two Jewish
Ukrainian families, who on October 1942 hid in a dark
and dank cave for nearly a year and a
half (511 days) to survive the Nazis and
unfriendly locals during the German occupation of
their small town. The historical drama mixes
documentary styled interviews with actor
re-enactments. It plays out as a unique real-life
Holocaust adventure story, that touches the heart
It's framed around a NYC investigator and amateur spelunker, Chris Nicola, who in 1993, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, treks on vacation to the western Ukraine to trace his heritage and explore the world renown cave in the region, Verteba, in the Bilche Zlota Valley. While exploring the large cave, Chris comes across clothing but is told only by the town locals "Maybe some Jews lived there." Concerned with who lived there and sensing a story, Chris eventually found someone in the Bronx who possessed the diaries of a remarkable woman named Esther Stermer and through those references and interviews with those still alive traced with Tobias how 38 members of the Stermer and Wexler clans lived in the above mentioned cave during the war. Aside from their difficulty of getting food and living in such harsh conditions, we learn that one day the Germans showed up in their cave and they were marched out but escaped their execution by slipping down the many passages in the cave's labyrinths.
It's still horrifying to learn of such Holocaust tales, and this unknown story, kept guarded by the families, adds another valuable chapter to Holocaust movies about those historical events.
REVIEWED ON 11/25/2013 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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