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The University of Southampton
The Parkes Institute

Film Screening: 'The Return of Nathan Becker' (Nosn Becker Fort Aheym) Event

Nathan Becker
4 May 2016
Lecture Theatre B Avenue Campus Faculty of Humanities SO17 1BF

For more information regarding this event, please email Dr Claire Le Foll at .

Event details

USSR, 1932, 85 minutes, B&W Yiddish and Russian with English subtitles Directed by Boris Shpis & Mark Milman

FILM SCREENING: The Return of Nathan Becker (Nosn Becker Fort Aheym

Introduced by Prof. Valérie Pozner (CNRS, Paris)

Nathan Becker, a Jewish bricklayer returns to Russia after 28 years in America. After reuniting with his father (played with comic eccentricity by Solomon Mikhoels) Nathan leaves the shtetl to work in the new industrial center of Magnitogorsk.

There, he and his African-American friend Jim soon find that the work habits they acquired in America that helped them to "build New York together" conflict with the Soviet system. While the film's resolution emphasizes the triumph of socialist productivity, the screenplay by Yiddish author Peretz Markish reflects the warmth and humor of the Jewish spirit. The film tackles the complex issue of the Sovietisation of Jews: it depicts the shtetl way of life as backward and grotesque and promotes a shift away from this life and traditional Jewish values.

The Return of Nathan Becker is the only Russian Yiddish sound feature film produced in the Soviet Union and was made for domestic consumption as well as for export to the United States. The film uses the character of Nathan Becker to dramatize of the failure of American capitalism and assimilation, while glorifying the success and productivity of the new Soviet system. It is a product of the Communist regime's determined efforts to reduce the rich Jewish cultural heritage to "Socialist in content and Yiddish in form only."

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