A Tickle In The Heart

Klezmer music, a traditional form of instrumental folk rooted in Eastern European Jewish culture, was thought all-but-extinct after World War II, abandoned after massive emigration to the U.S. But Stefan Schwietert's winning documentary, A Tickle In The Heart, finds it alive and well in an unlikely place: a quaint, colorless Florida retirement community, home of living legends the Epstein Brothers. In fact, the Epsteins—led by Max's emotive, squawking clarinet and backed by Willie on trumpet and Julius on drums—are busier than ever, playing sold-out venues and stubbornly bickering over a studio project. Deftly balancing live performances with casual interview footage, Schwietert follows their long tour through Europe, tracing a virtual history of klezmer from its beginnings in Pinsk through its current, bewildering revival in Berlin. In one delightful sequence, Max Epstein builds an easy rapport with an overwhelmingly non-Jewish German audience, leading its members through a sing-along to a Yiddish chorus. Shot in unusually stylized but perfectly evocative black-and-white, the film matches the steady, patient rhythms of the Epsteins' lives and music. A Tickle In The Heart captures the urgency of sustaining a musical genre that's inextricably tied to family and community—and offers the comfort of knowing its fate has been placed in good hands.

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