On a Sunday morning in late June 1941, thousands of Jews were herded into the courtyard of the police headquarters in Iasi, Romania. Simcha Jacobovici’s father Joseph and most of his family members were among them.
At about 2 p.m., police officers and soldiers and members of Romania’s fascist Iron Guard opened fire.
Miraculously, Joseph survived. But a bullet remained lodged in his chest, too deep to be removed. He would carry the tiny projectile next to his heart, like the memory of that day, for the rest of his life.
Charging the Rhino, a documentary by Simcha Jacobovici, is about what happened to Joseph, to his family, and to the Jewish community of Romania. Deeply personal, psychologically layered and stylistically innovative, it is a journey into the psyche of people who endured the unendurable.
VisionTV presents the world television premiere of Charging the Rhino on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The broadcast repeats on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The hour-long documentary airs to commemorate Holocaust Education Week (Nov. 1-11, 2007).
Simcha Jacobovici, the multi Emmy Award-winning filmmaker behind The Lost Tomb of Jesus, The Exodus Decoded and The Naked Archaeologist, is renowned for telling other people’s stories. Never before has he shared his own. In Charging the Rhino, Simcha travels to Romania, to confront the history that has haunted him all his life.
Before World War Two, Romania’s Jewish population numbered more than 700,000. After allying themselves with Nazi Germany in 1941, the country’s fascist leaders took enthusiastic part in the Holocaust, killing more than 400,000 Jews. Though Simcha’s father escaped, he lost almost everything – most of his family, his property – and would ever after describe himself as living “a life in pieces.”
Simcha’s cousin Sasha survived the Holocaust as well, only to meet his fate at the hands of Romania’s communist regime. Sasha’s story is perhaps the film’s most darkly fascinating: a stranger-than-fiction tale told in rare black-and-white clips from a 1960 Romanian gangster film starring real-life cops and robbers.
Under the oppressive rule of the communist regime, those Romanian Jews who survived the Holocaust began to flee. Today, barely 10,000 remain. Romania itself exists in a state of collective denial about its past: nowhere in the country can a monument to the victims of the Holocaust be found.
In the powerful closing scenes of Charging the Rhino, Simcha makes his way to the courtyard in Iasi where his family perished 60 years earlier. Under the watchful eyes of guards, he places a memorial of his own – giving a voice at last to thousands who were silenced.
Charging the Rhino was written and directed by Simcha Jacobovici and Bruce Thorson. It was produced by Felix Golubev and Simcha Jacobovici. Ric Esther Bienstock was the Executive Producer. Alberta Nokes executive produced for VisionTV.
David Todd, Media Relations Manager, VisionTV
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