Hungarian-Canadian filmmaker explores what it means to be Jewish

Tamás Wormser, a Montreal-based filmmaker of Hungarian origin, was featured in the Montreal Gazette today, in a piece written by columnist Bill Brownstein. Mr. Wormser, well-known for his “road doc” style documentaries, is having his film, The Wandering Muse, featured this Sunday at the Montreal International Documentary Festival (Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal). The fifty year old director, who moved to Montreal in 1986, visited a dozen countries, in order to discover the varies expressions of Jewish identity in the contemporary world. He went from Argentina to Uganda and even to Timbuktu. And, of course, he did not neglect to feature the very vibrant Jewish community in his own hometown, Montreal, which is not only home to rich performing arts rooted in Yiddish culture, but specifically to Klezmer music. (It should be noted that Budapest is also one of the world’s “capitals” of Klezmer.)

The Wandering Muse / Tamás Wormser

The Wandering Muse / Tamás Wormser

The film’s website includes the following summary of what to expect in Mr. Wormser’s most recent work: “In an alternative Argentinean bar, two friends play tango-infused klezmer. Ugandan villagers chant Hebrew prayers in East African harmonies. At a Montreal party, an artist mixes hip-hop and jazz with cantorial singing in a multilingual tour de force. In a Berlin apartment, an American and a Russian sing an anti-Zionist song from the 1920’s. The film is a series of encounters with Jewish musicians from across the world. As stereotypes are shattered and expectations up-ended, each scene brings us closer to discovering the nomadic soul in a borderless world of harmonies.”

Very appropriately, the film includes a wide range of languages, such as German, Yiddish, Ancient Hebrew and Lugandan. Subtitles are available in English and French.

“I was interested in the diaspora mostly, the scattering of Jews around the world. And I was looking for the answer through music, because music transcends time and it carries the soul of a people. But one of my main aims was to break the usual Jewish stereotypes and to present a variety of music that would be as much a revelation to Jews as to non-Jews,” Mr. Wormser explained to The Gazette. “Ultimately, I feel that anyone who is taking part in any aspect of the Jewish story is a Jew,” he added.

Mr. Wormser is of Jewish heritage, but growing up in communist Hungary, he said that he had no real connection to any religion. Now, however, he feels a kinship with some of the musicians featured in his film, because he too sees himself as a wandering artist.

The film will be screened Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 at 4:30 PM, in Montreal’s Amphithéâtre du Coeur des sciences, at l’UQAM.

The Wandering Muse's official poster.

The Wandering Muse’s official poster.

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