“Goodbye, Boys!” & Forbidden Soviet Jewish Film


In the lazy summer days of the late 1930s, 3 Soviet teenagers roam the streets of a small seaside town as their youth slips away and WWII looms. The boys, one of whom is Jewish, look forward to their military careers, getting away from overprotective parents, and becoming heroes.

Thus begins Goodbye, Boys! (1964), a cinematic masterpiece by Mikhail Kalik, a Russian director who dared to make Jewish films during the most prohibitive of times. The film (which you can view a clip of here) intercuts the boys’ adventures with vivid flash-forwards to WWII and the Holocaust. Images of violent destruction, mass graves, ghettos, and concentration camps offset the pre-war idyll. These flash-forwards, drawn from archival footage, were so artistically innovative and emotionally powerful that they unnerved Soviet censors. And it didn’t help that they highlighted the officially silenced Jewish story.

No wonder it took the Soviets 2 years to release Goodbye, Boys! After Kalik emigrated to Israel, the film disappeared from screens completely, and Kalik’s name became unmentionable, and then forgotten. Today there is a modest revival of interest in Kalik’s oeuvre, but the historical urgency of his storytelling has been lost to the passage of time.

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