A Latin American music chamber ensemble of cello, violin, piano and flute strikes a tender humanitarian cord that narrates the heroic story of Salvadoran military officer Col. Jose Arturo Castellanos who grants thousands of Jews Salvadoran citizenship to save them from deportation and the concentration camps.
"The Rescue: A Live Film-Concerto," an international documentary written, composed and filmed by Col. Castellanos’ the colonel’s grandsons Alvaro and Boris Castellanos, which was recently performed at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan, will be performed Sunday at 1 p.m. at St. Patrick’s Church in Glen Cove.
The documentary echoes classic Latin American songs of Chile’s Rosita Serrano, a singing sensation during the height of Nazi Germany, to transport audiences back to the 1930s and 40s. They are then whisked back to the present by Boris Castellanos' modern original compositions meant to offer hope for a more humane future. The live concerto also features master timbalero Luisito Quintero, a Grammy Award winning Latin Jazz percussionist.
The film recounts a friendship of loyalty that plants the seed to rescue thousands of Jews. Col. Castellanos' Jewish friend George Mandel, a Romanian businessman, faces deportation to the concentration camps that has Col. Castellanos issue him and his family Salvadoran citizenship. The two men are inspired to start a “mini factory’’ and work to authorize Salvadoran citizenship certificates to 13,000 Jews in Hungary, Romania, France, the Netherlands and Germany.
Alvaro Castellanos said the documentary is “a story of triumph. It teaches that with the collaboration of people, solutions are created in the worst of times …If we do not collaborate we will not survive.’’
He and his brother never knew their grandfather, whose family was estranged when they were forced to leave El Salvador during its 12-year bloody civil war in the 1980s. The dictatorial upheaval killed thousands. But open borders at the time gave the family passage to Canada where they started a new life.
Susan Berman of the Sid Jacobson JCC in Glen Cove, which received a grant to bring the documentary free to audiences, said the film connects the Jewish diaspora to today’s immigration prejudices and fears of deportation that Hispanics on Long Island face.
The film will “create a stronger community’’ between Jewish and Hispanic residents, she said. “We understand how current immigration issues are affecting the Hispanic population in our area and it is our hope that we can build solidarity through education and show commonality.’’
Alvaro Castellanos said the documentary reminds audiences that governments “demonize’’ those who suffer. The refugee wave of Central Americans that pushes north is a migration to flee poverty and political injustice.
“People in Latin America are greatly misunderstood and it important to remember their contributions to a global heritage,’’ he said.