Love is stronger than everything else are Neta Koen’s words in her testimony for Shoah Visual History Foundation at University of California, formed in 1994 by movie director Steven Spielberg in order to gather survivors and other witness of the Holocaust video testimonies. Neta Koen’s testimony for this Institute for visual history and education has code number 46772, and it is listed under her new name Maria Mladenovska. In her testimony, part of which is on view on the official web page of the movie Third Half, Koen witness how her marriage with an Orthodox man saves her life during the Second World War, even her family was against this.
“My father was a very good man. Such truly decent men are rare in this world. However, he was angry with me for marrying an Orthodox Christian,” says Koen in her testimony given on Macedonian language for the California based Institute. She recalls with tears in her eyes how life was influenced in small places on such a distance of the center where ideas for “pure race” were created in a time of a rise of Hitler’s vision of Third Reich. Koen witnessed changes that in first reduce business activities of the Jews who lived in Balkan areas in the beginning of the Second World War and that gradually those measures lead to deportation of Jews in the dead camp in Treblinka. Koen escaped and hid when the danger came close to the place o f her living. “When they rounded upon people, I went into hiding. We thought they would just deport them to the labor camp somewhere and send them back home after the war was over. However, instead of that they did…evil,” recalls Neta Koen.
Testimony: Koen’s testimony was a starting point and inspiration for the script – writers Darko Mitrevski and Grgur Strujic to develop a script for the movie Third Half, directed by Darko Mitrevski, a movie director who lives in Los Angeles, California. In their film, Neta (Maria) is Rebecca and in parts of the movie, she speaks Ladino. That is language used by Sephardic Jews, a religion Neta Koen belongs to.
Official trailer of Third Half movie
Macedonian model with working experience in New York, Katarina Ivanovska, who plays Neta (with name Rebecca) in the Macedonian and Czech co-production movie Third Half, directed by Darko Mitrevski was fortunate to act in this film – that is a story of innocent love between people of two religion, historical and cultural burdens, human sufferings, football and above all, possibilities for reconciliation through languages. The role of Rebecca is a film debut of Ivanovska, something that is very obvious in some of the decisive, dramatic and emotional moments of Third Half film. Ivanovska is fortunate to play Sephardic woman and show how she can speak Ladino language together with actors Rade Sherbedzija and Meto Jovanovski, both craft men in acting in theatre and movies.
Ivanovska’s modeling, fashion experience and fresh look dominate in creation of Rebecca’s character.
This is Ivanovska’s film debut, and role in the movie character based on a personal story of young Jewish woman Neta Koen and her love to youthful man (Kosta, played by Sasko Kocev in Third Half) of Christian origin. Ivanovska is fortunate to play in Third Half is an opportunity for her to experience work on a movie. A movie that is mostly interesting because of its polyglot angle in presentation of personal and collective dramas in Balkan region during the Second World War. International casting crew and majority of actors of Macedonia who play in Third Half speak at least on five different languages (Ladino, Macedonian, Bulgarian, Serbian, German) and lead viewers through this polyglot mosaic.
And this is a great advantage of Mitrevski’s Third Half history film that Macedonia decided to send as an entry for Oscar’s race in the foreign language category. With such polyglot angle, Third Half is interesting as a movie that explicitly confronts on the sports field languages, civilizations, philosophy on one and infamous behavior of Third Reich ideology supporters on other sides.
The motif in the background of the Third Half movie is a historical drama of 11.000 Jews. They were deported from Macedonia in 1943 to Treblinka during a time the country was under Bulgarian rule and administration. This topic consists only a segment in the script of Mitrevski and Strujic. As a script-writers, they use a multi layer approach to the plot and this methodology. That might weaken the base ground on which the movie builds further in production and post-production.
As stated on its official web page, Third Half is a film for football club Macedonia and their German Judaic coach Rudolph Spitz. Football club founder Dimitry and his choices to accept or not new order, love between FC Macedonia best striker Kosta and Judaical beautiful girl Rebecca and “above all it is a story on football game what in a war-time became a battlefield between good and evil.” It is obvious that each of these points could be the starting point to write and direct the fresh film, but the script – writers decided to mash them in one art product.
Further, both scripts – writers decided to mingle and build strong leading and supporting characters and each of them at certain moment sent important message explaining the moment, history, emotion or personal decision in the lights of events that shake and changed European ground forever. Logically, such a sensitive topic of Holocaust deserves production that can answer to the multilayered approach of the script – writers. It is legitimate one to view the film in terms of its cinematography, editing and in general in its post-production, as the productions signed behind the film except a nomination for Oscar in the category of foreign languages.
Movie makers: Director of photography, or leading cinematographer of Third Half is Klaus Fuxjager, awarded cinematographer, educated in Italy and on prestigious Famu department of cinematography. In his bio, according to his Web page, are listed blockbusters such as “Blade 2,” “Hart’s War,” “The League of extraordinary Gentlemen,” various commercial spots and works, and above all very successful cooperation with well-known DJ duo Deep Dish and famous American songwriter and singer Steve Nicks on their video Dreams. The cameraman team led by internationally recognized Fuxjager offers satisfactory visual experience in which those who have profound movie experience, and knowledge might recognize some scenes of planetary, epic, artistic and historical movies. If one looks for a perfect and epic shot in Third Half – there might be no one, according to my opinion.
The power of the camera and the dominance of visual storytelling is in two moments in Third Half movie. First, it is the scene between Meto Jovanovski, who plays a rabbi and German actor Richard Sammel, who plays Spitz, coach of a football club Macedonia and explains importance of religion for Judaic people.
The second moment, very noticeable and powerful is the scene when Spitz is following the last and decisive game between FC Macedonia and Bulgarian team Levski off the playground because as a Jew, he is not allowed to watch the football game. And to be with his team, he trained in the best manner of German philosophy, discipline and commitment to perfection. Mitrevski confronts an individual person with German and Ashkenazi Jew origin vs. Third Raich ideology that cannot stand mixed races. That scene is an example how much power has an individual over the collective hysteria. This is the moment that cannot be easily tarnished after watching Third Half movie.
A nice and tender love scene between Rebecca (Katerina Ivanovska) and Kosta (Sasko Kocev) ends only on an attempt not only because of inexperience of Ivanovska in such delicate film moments, mostly because of uncertain editing decision of editors of those shots in the movie. Aside that small imperfection, both editors Dejan Boskovic and Alois Fisarek assigned to Third Half epithet of the movie and not a collection of expensive advertisement shoots. With a relatively envious budget support, although shabby in correlation to budgets of Hollywood produced movie’s Third Half moves Macedonian (modest in numbers) cinematography in new direction when not only the idea, but the way of realization of that idea is becoming equally important. Additionally, some of the positive words are for costume designers Zaklina Krstevska, Ksenija Terzovic and make-up designer Ana Bulajic-Grcek, who succeeded to create the world of fashion and life in Macedonia during Second World War based on real photography documents of that time.
Consistence: Despite professional standards that one movie should fulfill and that can be listed as a movie, one can ask: Does this movie follow the exact destiny of central characters? Is it a politically correct having in mind present days? Is movie director sincere about tangible relations between two neighboring countries in Balkans caught in global turbulences during Second World War unready to forget on misunderstandings in light of the human tragedy? Is that football match really of such importance? Is the film consistent in the messages sent? All those questions are legitimate, although one cannot give one or strict answers to all of them.
For example, according to records of Neta Koen (Maria Mladenovska), she hid when Bulgarians, who supported Nazi’s regime administered Macedonia, but she never went to partisan fighters. Just for correlation, the football team and Rebecca vanish to mountains to fight with partisans against Nazi supporters. And that’s the liberty of movies over another sphere of life, especially history or journalism, for instance. It opens some question, although it is not obligate to give definitive answers. It is on us to search for those answers that one movie evoked.
One possible level and message need to be emphasized is that in lights of national tragedies, such was Holocaust to Jews and to all race was not pure, the unity is important. The difference in way’s religion is practiced efface in front of the evil. An Ashkenazi Jew (coach Spitz) and Sephardic Jew (Rebecca) faced the same danger and are united under one menorah. Ashkenazi Jews are those who came from the European ground and Sephardic Jews, who mostly came from Spain and are Jews of Arab-Muslim world.
The differences between two groups burden life of Jews in present days to with dominance of Ashkenazi Jews in organizational life of post-Second World War created Jewish state. “The differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim are not limited to geography. In the Middle Ages, the chasm between the Arab-Muslim world and Christian Europe was vast. After the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of an Islamic one, Arab civilization was urbane, sophisticated, and deeply learned. The very foundation of the Sephardic Jewish culture was the intellectual synthesis of religion and science that can best be called “Religious Humanism.
History of Jews and complicated Balkan’s countries history might be an additional burden for the movie despite its general intention to celebrate humanism over wrong and evil ideology. In a time when Europe has been facing with revival of supporters of Nazi’s ideology, Third Half movie could send a correct message for necessity and inclusiveness of cultures, languages, races and people. Is this movie a real path for a search of historically lost “Levantine civilization,” that was part of Mediterranean world, geographically on the territories of Muslim Spain and all the way to Iraq and Syria, India and even China? It was a place where three religions Judaism, Christianity and Islam intersected, and no one had exclusiveness.
As Omer-Sherman, Ranen explains in Longing to belong: Levantine Arabs and Jews in the Israeli Cultural Imagination on April first, 2010 article in Michigan Quarterly Review, the Levant has been compared to a mosaic. “Because of its diversity, the Levant has been compared to a mosaic: bits of stone of different colors assembled into a flat picture. To me, it is more like a prism whose various facets are joined by the sharp edge of differences, but each of which. . . It reflects or refracts light,” underlines Ranen. Further, Shasha David in the article The Arab Jewish tradition and peace published on March 27, 2010 recalls that “the most-recent chronicler of this forgotten civilization is the great Turkish writer and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk, who, in his excellent memoir ‘Istanbul’ laments, this eclipse of this venerable culture:
“The cosmopolitan Istanbul I knew as a child had disappeared by the time I reached adulthood. In 1853 [the French writer Theophile] Gautier, like many other travelers of the day, had remarked that in the streets of Istanbul, you could hear Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Italian, French, and English (and, more than either of the last two languages, Ladino, the medieval Spanish of the Jews who’d come to Istanbul after the Inquisition). Noting that many people in this “tower of Babel” were fluent in several languages, Gautier seems, like so many of his compatriots, to be slightly ashamed to have no language other than his mother tongue.”, explains Pamuk cited by David.
As stated, the great advantage of Darko Mitrevski’s Third Half movie is in languages and especially attention to Ladino language of Sephardim Jews, something is vanishing in present days under attempts to create a singular Judaic nation.
As Sasha David writes in the article in Huffington Posts “‘Posts “Under the rubric of a single Jewish nation, the Sephardi particularity, with its cultural genius and sophisticated social mores, has become a lost value.”
Thus, “Ansina la vida si truko i no avia mas ni enkontros, ni fiesta, no bodas, ni aligrias” is sentence on Ladino language. The English translation of the sentence is: “This life was so greatly changed and there was no more get-together, no festivals, no weddings, no celebrations). Zamila Kolonomos, a local Jewish woman who lived in Bitola wrote this sentence when she faced, as stated on the online site of Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C article The Holocaust in Macedonia: Deportation of Monastir Jewry“degrading, restrictive measures that halted normal Judaic life” in Bitola at the beginning of the Second World War.
Rebecca, played by Katarina Ivanovska spoke similar sentence on Macedonian language describing what her friend Zamila (played by Verica Nedevska Trajkova) told her on the life of Jews under the new administration. The team that produced this movie made enormous research for facts, backgrounds, testimonials and personal stories. The final movie product tenderly opens tangible questions. And creates a polyglot mosaic of characters and sanguine story despite the historical burden of the issues it tends to touch through art.
As in the beginning, to accentuate, the sanguine moment is in love. That relates to Mitrevski, as a movie director. His love affection to movies is more than obvious. Professionally, as a film director he is professionally more mature than in his previous directing experience in the movie Balkankan. The link that is holding the different characters in his movies is to build characters, emphasizing the comic side of them when he wants to accentuate something important. One can easily notify easiness of humor that Roberto Begini introduced in La Vita e Bella, visual landscapes and western sets in Sergio Leone’s “Once upon a time in the West” and or desperate waiting for the window moment, pictured at Giuseppe Tornatore Oscar-winning Cinema Paradiso. That positive moment is recalling on great pivotal star of Hollywood, Charlie Chaplin on the football playground.
So, as tactics, strategy, heart and team play is important to win one football game, the tactics and strategy will need the team of Third Half further, first in order to be nominated and in a best possible scenario to win. Football or soccer, as it is known in the USA is still a terra incognita for the majority of the citizens in America. With some good luck, this movie can have its best public there where the public is always interested in films, series or documentaries having a Second World War as a subject.
Lehmann, B, M. (2008, October 01). Rethinking Sephardi Identity: Jews and Other Jews in Ottoman Palestine. Jewish Social Studies, (1), 81, Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com
Omer-Sherman, Ranen (2010, April 01). LONGING TO BELONG: LEVANTINE ARABS AND JEWS IN THE ISRAELI CULTURAL IMAGINATION. Michigan Quarterly Review, (2), 254, Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com
Shasha, David (2010, March 27). The Arab Jewish tradition and peace. Arab American News, (1259), 13, Retrieved from http://elibrary.bigchalk.com