Uwe von Seltmann: “Boris Dorfman: A Mentsh” (Lviv’s Last Living Yiddish-Speaker)
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: What was Boris Dorfman doing when Uwe von Seltmann first met him 15 years ago?
Uwe von Seltmann was born in 1964 in Germany, and is a wanderer between countries, cultures, languages and religions. After studying in Germany and Austria, he worked as a journalist in cities such as Berlin, Vienna, Dresden and Leipzig. He has been living as a freelance writer and film maker in Krakow, Poland, since 2007.
Von Seltmann has written and edited eight books, mostly on the subject of the impact of Nazism on the family and social structures of the present. Together with his wife Gabriela, he – the direct directed and produced the Yiddish documentary Boris Dorfman – A mentsh.
He has been interested in Yiddish language and the history and present of Galizia in the Ukraine, since his youth. On a trip there in 2001, he met Boris Dorfman on a trip to Lviv, also known as Lemberg. Since then, he has returned several times a year, meeting with Dorfman and learning about his life history. Because Dorfman is the oldest Jew in Lviv and the last Yiddish speaker there, the von Seltmanns had wanted to make a documentary about him for a long time, and finally were able to realize their project in 2013.
The von Seltmanns decided that they not only wanted the film’s dialogue to be in Yiddish, but that they also wanted the film to be what Uwe calls a “radical Yiddish film.” He says that the idea was that a person who speaks no language but Yiddish would be able to understand everything in the film, so when Russian is spoken, there are Yiddish subtitles; the credits and the written explanations are also written in Yiddish.
Uwe von Seltmann spoke with us about his own unusual background, the film, and his plans for the future.
To contact Uwe von Seltmann: Uvseltmann@t-online.de
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