A spellbinding story of survival. A long-lost musical masterpiece. A secret wartime diary revealed. A 98-year-old artist reborn.
On Monday, April 3, 2023 at 9PM ET / 6PM PT, Canada’s VisionTV is proud to present the world television network premiere of The Rhapsody, the astonishing true story of pianist and composer Leo Spellman. The Audience Award winner for Best Documentary at the 2022 Hong Kong Jewish Film Festival, The Rhapsody was directed, written and animated by David Hoffert and is narrated by Stephen Fry. It was produced by David Hoffert, Brenda Hoffert, Paul Hoffert and Jeff Preyra.
In 1947, Leo Spellman, a Jewish musician and Holocaust survivor from Poland, composed a 3-part work, Rhapsody 1939-1945, at a Displaced Persons (DP) camp in Germany. The piece musically depicted his experiences of war, suffering and the joy of liberation, and was performed only once by Spellman and a group of concentration camp survivors.
When Leo immigrated to Canada in 1948, he tried to bury his painful memories and packed the score for “Rhapsody 1939-1945” in a suitcase in his garage where it remained for 52 years.
The Rhapsody tells Spellman’s astonishing story of survival and artistic redemption. Born in Ostrowiec, Poland in 1913 to a Jewish dynasty of musicians (including first cousin Wladyslaw Szpilman, subject of the Oscar-winning film The Pianist) Spellman was an accomplished pianist and composer until the Nazis invaded in 1939. Thanks to his wits, the the bravery of a Polish student, and sheer luck, Spellman survived, also saving his sister, wife, and brother-in-law.
During the Holocaust, Leo kept a secret and detailed diary, including every near-death experience during eighteen months of hiding, that was only discovered after his passing in 2012, and now considered by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to be one of the most important documents of its kind.
Called “Harrowing, raw, and intimate” by POV Magazine; “Riveting from beginning to end!” by The Ted Woloshyn Podcast, and “Absolutely the best documentary I’ve seen all year” by Hollywood North Magazine, Leo’s story is told through bold animation, interviews with family and colleagues, and powerful live music, including the performance of the long lost “Rhapsody 1939-1945” at the Ashkenaz Festival in Toronto. Spellman attended the triumphant concert, fulfilling his artistic dream three months before he passed away at the age of 99.
The Rhapsody had its world premiere in Toronto in July 2022 at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival and has since been shown in Miami, Australia and Hong Kong where it won Best Documentary. The official website for The Rhapsody is spellmansrhapsody.com.
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