Before the State of Israel was founded, Stalin established an autonomous Jewish province farthest east of Russia at the border with China. The administration center was the town of Birobidjan, which is located along the Trans-Siberian railway. Any illusion that the Soviet leader was doing this for altruistic reasons disappeared when he initiated Jewish persecution in this area – 2 years after the province was founded in 1934. In the poetic and multifaceted documentary portrait Birobidjan from 2015, Belgian filmmaker Guy-Marc Hinant, who has a sensitive sense of places in disrepair, tried to find the links between the past and the present to this enigmatic Jewish settlement. His latest documentary, Charleroi, The Land of 60 Mountains, picks up the thread from the dream, which today is a distant memory, of the promised homeland.
A city with many possibilities
The film is inspired by the story of Benjamin Silberberg, who with his family planned to emigrate to Birobidjan from his hometown of Charleroi in 1934. The journey never took place; they were dragged into the war and ended up instead. . .
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