Wednesday 18 September 2013

Extraordinary documentary on 100 years of the Herzl Clinic debuts on City Montreal Saturday

For some time now I have been looking forward to seeing the much anticipated documentary by filmmaker extraordinaire Ezra Soiferman about the  Goldman Herzl Family Practice Centre
 at the Jewish General Hospital. While Dockside to Bedside: 100 Years of Herzl will premiere on Saturday, September 21 (8 p.m.) on City Montreal, I was fortunate to get a sneak peek for the purposes of this article. 

The film was, in fact, originally scheduled to air a week later. However, some last minute scheduling changes forced Soiferman and his team into emergency advance publicity mode.  Fortunately, he is quite good at what he does. Judging by the fact he responded to a 1:20 a.m. email me only moments later, the man never sleeps. I won't get into my late hours by the computer. First of all, here is a trailer to watch.

Soiferman spent a year as a “fly on the wall” at Herzl, documenting the institution's mosaic of patients, staff and stories throughout its milestone 100th anniversary year.

Located in the unlikely locale of a former Catholic convent on the grounds of then Jewish General,  the  Herzl is one of Canada's first free medical clinics and an innovative healthcare model. For a century, it has pushed the boundaries in areas as varied as family medicine, breastfeeding, teen health, urgent care, home visits for the elderly, drug addiction, palliative care and many more.

“I've directed films about greasy-spoon chefs, Christmas tree sellers, working dogs, pickle makers and fishermen,” says  Soiferman. “Nothing could have prepared me for a film about a busy medical clinic and all it entails. What a privilege it was to be able to spend a year following the staff and patients of such a humbling and historic institution as Herzl.”

Dockside to Bedside: 100 Years of Herzl which runs an hour with commercials, looks back at the clinic’s hundred-year history, from makeshift dockside dispensary serving newly arrived Jewish immigrants and Montreal’s poor, through its transformation into part of the bedrock of Canada’s medical landscape, becoming a recognized leader in preventive medicine and compassionate care. Today it thrives under Dr. Michael Malus, who is Herzl’s Director and JGH Chief of Family Medicine.

Dr. Michael Malus

“Working closely with Dr. Malus and his team as they cared for Montrealers and Quebecers of all ages and ethnicities was a really eye-opening experience," Soiferman says. " A little like going to medical school, I imagine, except without any dissections or exams, just a final film to present. This is a film I'm eager to share with viewers looking to learn about the roots of preventive medicine in Canada. Compassionate medicine, too."

“Ezra got it,” says Dr. Malus. “Our definition of health is more than the absence of disease. It is about enabling people to be who they really are. Our staff partners, with our patients, make it work. It is infectious.”
Veteran nurse clinician Karen Tafler is featured in the film.
Among the people featured in the film is    West Island resident Karen Tafler, a veteran nurse clinician at Herzl. She is seen consulting with doctors and taking care of patients while doing her own on camera interview.  Tafler has been at Herzl for an incredible 39 years and a nurse for 41. Her late grandfather Dr. Samuel Ortenberg, was one of the 12 original founding doctors of Herzl back in 1912 and her grandson  cut the ribbon kicking off the 100th year celebrations  back in January 2012.

"I started at Herzl in 1975," Tafler says. "My grandfather died a year later, so he was well aware of my job. So naturally this place is very sentimental to me. It is a very special place. Herzl has never turned anyone away. I think this film is terrific and really tells our story well."

City Montreal can be accessed  on Videotron Classic: Channel 14; Videotron illico: Channel 14 or 614 for broadcast in HD; Bell Satellite: Channel 207; and Bell Fibe: Channel 204 or 1204 for broadcast in HD.

It was great to hear Dennis Trudeau as the narrrator. He's an old friend of Dr. Malus,” Soiferman explained. “When Michael asked him if he wanted to be involved he happily agreed. Also, Dennis and I crossed paths about 10 years ago when we both worked in the CBC-Montreal newsroom. He was anchor of Newswatch and I was a segment producer on Mitsou's old show Au Courant.”

It is very likely that this film will air again after Saturday.  “Our distributor, Incendo Media, is currently shopping the film around to broadcasters outside of  Montreal,” Soiferman says. “ Hopefully there will be more screenings in the near future, as well as French broadcasts too. 

Earlier this week Soiferman  arranged for a screening for  about 100 Herzl doctors and nurses. “They loved  it,” he said. “I was blown away by the feedback. “
Ezra Soiferman (photo by Stella Walker) 

Soiferman shoots and directs stories about fascinating people and places that warm hearts, uplift spirits, and provoke thought and laughter. Among these are Man of Grease - from legendary Montreal greasy spoon Cosmos to the island of Crete, following Tony Koulakis, breakfast chef, on his first holiday home in over 30 years; Posthumous Pickle Party - a quest to find the secret recipe for the late Simcha Leibovich’s homemade pickles, upon the closing of his small but important Montreal landmark, Simcha’s Grocery; Tree Weeks - shadowing the quirky and dedicated Québécois Christmas tree vendors who migrate each year to Manhattan to sell their wares; and Cod Help Us - capturing the plight of spirited cod fisherman in the Gulf of St. Lawrence as their livelihood for generations slips away.



1 comment:

  1. Shalom

    What a great achievement. Take my hat off to you

    God Bless you all

    Steve Acre