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Tuesday 25 July 2017

Rabbi Wolff, Documentary Film Germany 2016, produced and directed by Brigitte Wauer, 8.5* out of 10

Are you looking forward to life in your late 80s? No? Perhaps it's time to think again. You need not be interested in Judaism or any religion for that matter to be amazed and inspired by Brigitte Wauer's deceptively deep and unexpectedly feel-good documentary film about the unconventional Mr William Wolff of Henley-on-Thames and Schwerin.

At the age of 87, William Wolff is not only the Rabbi of the Jewish community of North Eastern Germany, but a bundle of positive intellectual and emotional energy. The Jewish community in the former communist part of Germany consists almost exclusively of people who came to Germany in recent years from the former Soviet Union and Jeremy Wolff has taken the not always rewarding job to be its Rabbi. Soon it will become clear that Mr Wolff has more than one string to his bow and that is a good thing, because his flock and its elected leaders are not as friendly and accepting of their spiritual guide as it might at first appear.    

Producer Director Brigitte Wauer follows William Wolff, who not only commutes between the North-Eastern-German cities of Schwerin and Rostock to serve his community, but whose actual home is in Henley-on-Thames near London from where he commutes regularly to his job in Germany and sets out on other adventures. Between, London, Schwerin, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Wauer manages to gradually draw out the many facets of Wolff’s professional and personal lives and the people whose lives he touches. On the way, we find out, why William Wolff is an expert on British political life and particularly the Houses of Parliament, where the former British Foreign Secretary Lord Owen explains how Wolff was his go-to- man for learning about its workings, when Owen first entered it as a young member. 

Like it’s subject, this documentary is a tour-de-force, showing us an unconventional multi-faceted man in his late 80s with his human strengths and weaknesses, but using sheer intellectual and emotional energy and an innate positivity to live a uniquely interesting and fulfilled life. Moreover, in doing so, he energises and inspires those around him whatever their background, job or outlook on life. 

Director Brigitte Wauer and her team have done an excellent job in transmitting to their audience the feeling of wonder and sheer joie-de-vivre that emanates from Rabbi Wolff. 

You need not be interested in Judaism or any other religion for that matter to be amazed and inspired by this unexpectedly feel-good documentary film, which is sure to come to a cinema or film festival near you. Currently it can be seen at the Jewish Film Festival in San Francisco.

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