“How long can you live with memories?”
You never know when a potential story will come your way. For Kahane Cooperman it was on her drive to work around New York City while listening to WQXR. The station was calling for used instruments to be donated for children and schools in need, a story about how they already received one from a ninety-one year old Holocaust survivor piquing Cooperman’s interest. An adventure to discover who this man was and how he acquired the violin began that ultimately led her to its new home at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls. What sprang from this radio promotion was an unlikely journey of a wind instrument surviving chaos, war, and horror, its fateful mission bringing two disparate people together through music, hope, and love.
Joe’s Violin becomes something akin to War Horse wherein the film tells a sprawling multi-faceted tale swirling around a seemingly innocuous piece of property. If not for this instrument we wouldn’t know Joseph Feingold’s arduous story of Siberian labor camps and the song his lost mother sang to him in letters. We also wouldn’t have met young Brianna Perez, daughter of an immigrant family who won a lottery to attend BGLIG and dove headfirst into music’s cathartic powers. A simple good deed suddenly becomes a tidal wave of emotion, history passed on through artifact so as never to extinguish the memory of what happened and what continues to happen to this day. To outsiders it’s just a violin, but to Joe and Brianna it is life.
Cooperman takes us along for the ride, her inquiry into the donation’s origin leading to Joseph and the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation tasked to find its new home. Her film proves both a Holocaust survival story and feel good “pay it forward” piece, the violin transforming into hallowed object made immortal. It’s a symbol of the past, a good luck charm for the future, and a selfless gift that will never cease giving. Cooperman couldn’t have written the story better herself or created more generous, kind, and empathetic souls than Joe and Brianna. The film documents two lives that literally change in a way neither anticipated. Two people who never would have met if not for this music drive suddenly inseparable within the annals of time.