All posts by Diana H

George Penner Goes Home to Dolinovka Film Review


This film was (seemingly) produced by George Penner’s son, Richard. The run time is 90 minutes, and consists mostly of home video recordings from 1988. The film documents a trip back to where George was born in the foothills near Orenburg, as well as Germany, and Moscow. This is explained with a map by Richard in the introduction. At the start, scenery of Alberta is displayed, followed by a visit with George in his Alberta home. This is where the trip began.

In order to discuss the family’s history and culture, there is information provided on Menno Simons and Mennonites, along with further points on their immigration. Catharine the Great is spoken about also. A slideshow of captioned images include features such as painting by J.P. Klassen, photos of the Dyck flour mill in Rosenthal, and Lepp & Wallmann factories. Further historical information covers the Bolshevik revolution in 1917 and its impacts, which includes looking specifically at how this affected the Penner family.

Viewers get a glimpse of scenes from the Frankfurt airport, the Molotschna colony, and other significant areas of George’s past. As the journey unfolds, so do the long lasting memories of George’s former life in the areas visited. These memories are re-lived by viewing old schools, churches, villages, and homes, (at times over traditional Mennonite meals). Conversations are held between family members, friends, and George. Some of this is in Low German, while only a portion of this is translated with subtitles. There is also some narration (in English) by R. Penner. The style of the film is casual, and not likely scripted. The viewer becomes a part of this experience in an honest and true way.

Other details of the film include visits to the general store in #9 village, Kobanka, which is the village that George grew up in. Much of the purpose for the trip and film seems to be for sentimental reasons. From the ice hockey rink in the #11 village, to the dairies and pig barns, there are a multitude of stories that are brought forth through the communities involved. This film is suitable for all ages.

-Teanna Rozek
2018-08-31

-Please note: being that this is a low-budget film, some of the video contains small glitches such as shaky images.

Bibliography
“George Penner Goes Home to Dolinovka”. Richard Penner. 1988.

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The Pacifist Who Went to War Film Review


The Pacifist Who Went to War was produced by Joe Macdonald in 2002, directed by David Neufeld, along with the National Film Board of Canada. The film is 51 minutes long, with narration by Margaret Nagle. Ideologies of WWII and Mennonite beliefs intertwine in telling stories of pacifism, alternative and active service. Complexities of these bring forth discussions of conflict in the Mennonite communities during a time of crisis. This narrows in on Canadian history, specifically in Winkler, Manitoba. Two featured speakers, John and Ted Friesen, speak of their experiences and the ways in which they were affected by difficult situations caused by the war.

Much like many other Mennonite historical films, a brief history of Mennonite communities is illustrated. Among the two Friesen brothers, there is a commonality of beliefs, while also differing, being that one brother enlisted and the other became a C.O. (Conscientious Objector). This becomes the framework for the film’s discussion, as they each tell their side of how these choices affected their lives, and of those around them.

This film uses old photographs and film footage in combination with interviews and research to describe topics such as clashing cultures, court processes for alternative service approval, Hitler’s rule, and reconciliation. Some of the discussion includes the problems faced by Mennonites who went to war, which was frowned upon by the community. The division that this brought about is explained, and various voices contribute their contrasting opinions on how this should or should not have been. Others speak on these subjects young and old, including interviewees Anton Dyck and Harvey Friesen.

The film delivers its facts and information in an organized manner, while supplemented with visual interest. Though the film contains heavy subject matter, the film can be watched with the whole family.

-Teanna Rozek
2018-08-31

Bibliography

“The Pacifist Who Went to War”. National Film Board of Canada. August, 2018. Web.

“The Pacifist Who Went to War”. Joe Macdonald. National Film Board of Canada. 2002.

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