Si tu as faim, chante. Si tu as mal, ris (If You’re Hungry, Sing. If You Ache, Laugh)

Si tu as faim, chante. Si tu as mal, ris (If You’re Hungry, Sing. If You Ache, Laugh)

Sunday, May 6, 2018 - 2:15pm
Michèle Smolkin | 
France |
 2017 | 
60 minutes


Sam Rechtman entered the world 104 years ago on July 7th, 1914 in the Polish village of Chelm. The second of four siblings, born to a communist mother and deeply religious father, young Sam came of age when Russian pogroms still necessitated hiding places for Jewish kids to escape being murdered. He recounts the wilder aspects of his childhood—from an early run in with the 1917 Revolution in Warsaw to the rampant prejudice faced by Jewish families—with wry humour and equanimity shaped by more than a century of experience.

Director Michèle Smolkin illustrates her uncle’s anecdotes through charming animation (by Elise Laroche), archival footage, and a buoyant score. But the real star of the film is the timeless art of storytelling. As Sam remembers his childhood and teenage years, his experience as an army gunner during the war, and working with the French Resistance, the film becomes more than just a portrait of one man’s life and times. History comes alive, in all its palpable, idiosyncratic detail. As Sam recounts his ferociously strong-willed mother or a reunion with his younger brother after the liberation of France, family and long-lost friends are brought back to vivid bright existence. We start to feel like part of the family. Sam’s long life, filled with grandchildren, and great grandchildren, is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. -DW


Michèle Smolkin

Michèle Smolkin was born in Paris, where she became an architect. She turned to medias once she moved to Vancouver in 1983. On the West Coast, she has been a freelance cultural journalist for radio and the written press, a translator/voice over talent, a radio host, a TV and radio shows producer, as well as a radio drama writer. In 2003, she became a cultural documentary director and writer for Radio-Canada (radio and TV), then Head of the French TV department in BC and later Programming Executive Producer. After retiring from Radio-Canada in 2013, she continues to work as a documentary independent director and writer. Michèle Smolkin has served as a board member on several organization, like Real to Reel festival, Figlio Productions, Save the Hollywood Theatre, Hollywood Arts Foundation and Ciné Roman.