The tale of a century-old rivalry and newfound alliance between two Jewish summer camps – one Communist, the other Socialist – where the sparring was ideological, and the activities, such as re-enacting the Spanish Civil War for fun, comically mind boggling. Today’s campers join forces to fight for social justice in Trump’s America. Think Wes Anderson meets Woodie Allen, Emma Lazarus and a whole lot of bubbies…
Description of the film
“Kinderland” tells the story of two rival Jewish summer camps – one Communist, the other Socialist – founded in upstate New York in the 1920s and still in existence today. Camps Kinderland and Kinder Ring were established by secular Jews to inspire social-mindedness in their youth and have cultivated new generations of activists for nearly a century, helping to shape America’s progressive movement. Despite their commonalities, the two camps enjoyed a legendary feud from their respective locations, on opposite ends of Sylvan Lake.
While Kinderland and Kinder Ring no longer self-identify as communist or socialist, they remain proudly left-leaning (one still more so than the other). In response to our current political crisis, today’s campers, a largely secular multi-ethnic group, prioritize shared values over ideological differences and join forces, taking up the mantle of their predecessors to fight for equality and justice in a world where they are no longer guaranteed.
What makes “Kinderland” both exceptional and timely is that it presents a history of political consciousness in America. The original campers of both Kinderland and Kinder Ring were children of Eastern European immigrants, who believed in the American dream. They were taught to stand up for their rights and those of others, to oppose racism, challenge unjust laws, and be active participants in making the world a better place. Many original alumni, such as 95-year-old Fanny, who’s featured in “Kinderland,” became leaders in the American labor movement that created the 8-hour day, weekends, social security, and Medicare.
Today’s campers are fighting for many of the same progressive measures Fanny and her peers helped secure and that are now at risk in Trump’s America. “Democracy is not going backwards, it’s making a circle,” Fanny says, in the film. Alumni across generations similarly note the current resurgence in inequality, racism, and fascism as echoing back to the time of the camps’ founding. The cyclical nature of history is a running theme in “Kinderland” and a clarion call to social activists: To better the future, you have to consider the past.
Ultimately, “Kinderland” is an inspiration to a divided nation and a reminder that the act of remembering is a vital and unifying force. The film features interviews with elder former campers, present day campers, and archival video and stills. Its critical messaging is conveyed largely through poignant, funny anecdotes – ruminations on childhood, old age, and fighting the good fight in the ongoing struggle over what kind of country we will be.
About the Filmmaker
Award-winning filmmaker Amy Grappell has twenty years of filmmaking experience. Her documentary “Quadrangle” premiered at Sundance, where it won a Jury Prize. It went on to win Best Short Film at SXSW, AFI, and Dallas International Film Festival, and had its New York premiere at New Directors/New Films [MOMA] before being broadcast on HBO, where she also developed it as a scripted series. She returned to Sundance with her short documentary “Kids Green The World” and was one of the select writer/directors of Richard Linklaters SLACKER 2011. Grappell’s feature documentary “Light from the East,” shot in the Ukraine during the fall of Communism, premiered at SXSW, aired on PBS, and is part of the collection at the Library of Congress. She’s the recipient of grants from the Austin Film Society, National Endowment of the Arts, Texas Council for the Humanities and the Trull Foundation.
“Quadrangle” by Amy Grappell was recently featured in The Atlantic magazine on-line film series. See the documentary and interview with director at this link: https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/606457/quadrangle/