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'Ocean's Eight' and Their 'Watermarks'

November 10, 2005 By:
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Still making waves: Hakoah member Greta W. Stanton on screen at the Gershman Y.
Water babies? Water babes!

Even in their 80s now, the women of "Watermarks" - the pooled report of eight members of the legendary Hakoah Vienna Sports Club, whose reunion 65 years after Nazi nefariousness sent them scurrying to different corners of the world - holds water and then some as a choice for the next edition of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival.

The film is scheduled Monday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., at the Gershman Y in Center City, with Greta W. Stanton, 86 - a member of Hakoah and once an Austrian youth champion - scheduled to speak that evening.

Ocean's Eight? Reminiscing on camera, the octet of octogenarians - whose swimming team was part of a club that was founded in 1909; Hakoah is Hebrew, appropriately, for "strength" - dive right in, offering anecdotes but, surprisingly, little of the animosity that seems a natural for them to express of lives choked off by the Anschluss.

Sink or Swim
But some memories are more bitter than others: Judith, chosen to represent Austria at the Berlin Games of the 1936 Olympics, chose to step out of the pool rather than demean herself doing the crawl stroke before Hitler. She was promptly punished, banned forever from competition, her swim meets meeting with the ultimate infamy - being permanently expunged from the records.

War crimes still mete out punishment on those affected: One Hakoah member, Elisheva, is forever stuck in the shallow end of memories, wading through pain and persecution: "I can never meet people," she says onscreen. "I automatically start to calculate: How old were they in 1938? If they are around my age, I can't even look at them."

"Watermarks" is all about the stain on their psyches and how the women deal with them. The stories - the sink-or-swim sentiment the women faced in anti-Semitic Austria - make for compelling drama and commentary on the invincibility of the human spirit.

You'd be hard-pressed not to feel moved by the splash of an ending that helps mark "Watermarks" as a remarkable movie.

• • •

Movies of Jewish concern seem to fall in line this autumn as other openings outside the film festival are of particular interest:

Can you spell "h-i-t"? That seems to be the advance word on "Bee Season," the adaptation of Myla Goldberg's novel take on a Jewish family whose spelling bee champ of a daughter spells emotional turmoil for all.

Great casting. But will audiences buy Richard Gere as Jewish (the character Saul has been transformed for the film from a cantor to college prof)? Well, he once did play King David. …

Opens Friday, Nov. 18.

In 1944, "The Aryan Couple" work for a rich privileged Jewish family in a sumptuously sylvan environment in the occupied Hungarian countryside.

But the civil servants serve up a dark secret that rattles the roost when their employers (Martin Landau and Judy Parfitt) make a deal with Nazi henchman Heinrich Himmler to exchange their property for their lives. This John Daly film also opens on Nov. 18.

 

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