Kaddish: Yossi Klein’s Docu about his Father, Soltan Klein, Holocaust Survivor

“Kaddish” is much more than the story of a Jew confronting an atrocity that had been committed before he was born.

A deeply moving chronicle of Yossi Klein, son of Zoltan Klein, who’s a Holocaust survivor, the docu is about the passing of events from one generation to another.

The movie was shown as part of the 1985 New Directors/New Films, a joint effort of N.Y. Film Fest and MoMA’s Film Department.

“Kaddish” is the Hebrew prayer recited by mourners who have lost a close relative within the previous year or those who are remembering the anniversary of the death of a relative. Paradoxically, the prayer doesn’t mention any death; it’s a prayer of hope for the living.

When producer-director-editor Steve Brand began shooting in 1978, the feature was going to be about many survivors. However, later on, he decided to focus on the Klein family, particularly on the interaction between its first and second-generation members. The docu captures Yossi’s ties to his father by following Yossi’s struggle to come to terms with his family’s past as well as the Jewish people’s torment; Zoltan dies during the making of the film.

Yossi was born in 1953 and his sister Karen, soon after. The Kleins have been powerfully influenced by their father Zoltan, who raised them in the tradition of articulate Jewish activism. Filmed over five years, Brand succeeds in capturing the troubled yet rich discourse that existed between the pessimistic Yossi and his father Zoltan. The obsessiveness of Yossi’s concerns for his father and people run the risk of overpowering all other aspects of his life.

If we are surprised to learn at the end of the movie that Yossi has moved to Israel and got married, it’s due to the fact that his self-portrait suggests a haunted and cerebral man, with little time for “normal” interests such as courtship and marriage.

Running Time: 92 Minutes.