For the uprooted, "home" can mean an elusive yearning for a former place and time. <i>Odessa Odessa</i> elegantly captures the essence of nostalgia as experienced by elderly Jews born in Odessa, Ukraine. Like a three-verse melancholy song, this documentary is a poetic journey from Odessa to Brighton Beach, New York, to Ashdod, Israel, maneuvering among characters who summon feelings of Odessa through memory and music.
On Odessa's vacant streets, neglected buildings suggest a glorious past. Here a few very old women reminisce, in a mix of Yiddish and Russian, about World War II, their ideologies, and their vibrant youths. With their city nearly emptied of Jewish life, it is as if they live in the Odessa of fantasy. In Brighton Beach, the vibrancy that must once have filled Odessa pulses along the boardwalks. But even as the immigrants praise America, there is an overwhelming sense of displacement embodied by the incessant rumbling of the above-ground train. In sun-bleached Ashdod, the Odessans express disappointment that, while in Russia they were considered Jews, here in the "promised land" they are forever Russians—outsiders. Their supposed homeland has become Diaspora.
Drawing out subtle meanings through stunning, lyrical photography and the metaphor of a timeless traveler who guides us over the sea from continent to continent, <i>Odessa Odessa</i> evokes profound truths about the soul of the Jewish people and the wider experience of exile.