Doc Talk

Norwell duo films rebuild of synagogue

Students and framers raise a hand-hewn timber into place on a sidewall of the Gwozdziec synagogue.
Students and framers raise a hand-hewn timber into place on a sidewall of the Gwozdziec synagogue.Handshouse Studio

The best vengeance against evildoers is to restore some of the beauty that they thought they had destroyed forever.

Rick and Laura Brown of the Norwell-based Handshouse Studio (and also professors at Massachusetts College of Art and Design) were determined to rebuild Gwozdziec, one of the most magnificent 18th-century wooden Polish synagogues and a victim of the Nazi occupation during World War II.

With sparse evidence to work with, they mustered hundreds of volunteer craftsmen and set about their mission with handheld tools and local materials and what knowledge they could glean from intense research. In the course of reconstructing the building they learned about the luminous culture that had created it.


The Norwell-based father-son filmmakers Cary and Yari Wolinsky of Trillium Studios recorded this process in their documentary “Raise the Roof,” which premieres at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival on Tuesday. The filmmakers and builders will attend subsequent screenings on Feb. 12 and 13.

If you were thinking of heading south to escape some of the weather here’s an opportunity to add some cinematic and cultural enrichment to your getaway.

Go to ajff.org/film/raise-roof.

Screen test

“I’m at Beacon,” says Brandy Burre in Robert Greene’s documentary “Actress, referring to the small upstate New York town where she and her family live. She handles some kids’ toys and adds, “I’m not acting. So this is my creative outlet.”

Then she delivers the line again, with different intonations — a second take.

Clearly, she is acting, and this is the story of her life. Once part of the cast of HBO’s “The Wire,” Burre gave it up to raise a family. Now she wants to renew her career, and Greene records the repercussions on her private life.

Or is there such a thing as private life? Aren’t we all just playing roles, some more self-consciously than others?


“Actress” screens Feb. 6-11 as part of the DocYard series at the Brattle Theatre. Greene will be on hand to discuss the documentary at the 7 p.m. screening on Feb. 9.

Go to www.brattlefilm.org.

Lesson you think

The United States has never quite shaken off its attitude of benevolent superiority when it comes to other cultures. Domestic poverty, political corruption, and social inequities tend to take the shine off our gospel of democratic values and capitalist prosperity.

In “Schooling the World” (2010) documentarian Carol Black visits Ladakh, a Buddhist region in the northern Indian Himalayas, and investigates the effects of imposing our values and ideas on a traditional society.

It screens as part of the Bright Lights series at 7 p.m. at Emerson College’s Bright Family Screening Room, 559 Washington St. Claire Andrade-Watkins, a professor in Emerson’s department of video and media arts, will discuss the film after the screening. Free.

Go to web.emerson.edu/brightlights/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2014/12/VMA-Bright-Lights-Calendar

Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.