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DEC. 25 & 26
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Even as the History Channel unearths every snippet of World War II-era film—next week, Goebbels flossing!—a remarkable chapter in German Jewish history remains largely unexplored and unknown. In 1939, Jews fleeing Nazi persecution found their options for emigration elsewhere in Europe virtually shut down by the Evian conference, but a door opened to an unlikely haven: the East. Dana Janklowicz-Mann grew up hearing her father reminisce about his childhood travails in Shanghai’s International Settlement, where Japanese and Russian youths were little more accepting of his presence than Hitler’s army would have been back home. Dana and her filmmaking partner Amir Mann bring this extraordinary clash of cultures and religions to life with the feature-length documentary Shanghai Ghetto. The film begins with the usual slow building of German horrors but takes a dramatic turn once it sets foot on decadent, squalid, exotic Chinese soil (pictured). Through a series of interviews and some (but not much) amazing footage, the survivors’ unusual stories are told: picking through rice on a sunny windowsill to remove bugs and bits of glass; getting knocked around by other kids and shunned by the Chinese city around them; cobbling together a culture they could understand with boxing clubs, hat-making enterprises, and creative cooking; hearing the horrifying news from back home; and finally, coming to the States only to see, with shock, signs demanding the separation of “coloreds” and “whites.” Their stories are heart-rending, inspiring, and resilient as youth itself. The film screens at 5, 7, and 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25, and Thursday, Dec. 26, at Visions Cinema Bistro Lounge, 1927 Florida Ave. NW. $5.50-$8.50. (202) 667-0090. (Arion Berger)