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November 19, 2019

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A children’s song for Shanghai’s Jews

A MOVIE about the thousands of Jews who sought refuge in China during World War II is to be made in Shanghai by Sid Ganis, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Ganis already produced an English and Chinese language short film, “A Children’s Song,” in 2015. A longer version will be shot in Shanghai next year and is expected to hit screens across the world in 2021, Ganis said at a ceremony yesterday when he and his wife Nancy were given the title of “ambassadors of Sino-Jewish cultural exchange” by the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

The title was granted for the couple’s outstanding contributions to driving the friendship between Chinese and Jewish people, the museum said.

“I’m thrilled to receive the title from the museum. It’s not about movies, it’s about people,” Ganis told Shanghai Daily.

He said he had often been honored in the film business, but never thought he would be given such a “high honor.”

“We are now making a story to be interesting and entertaining not only for China, but to the rest of the world as well, through the international language of music,” he said.

Shanghai was a safe haven in the late 1930s and the early 1940s for many Jewish refugees fleeing the horrors of Nazi Germany. About 23,000 Jews who fled Nazi-occupied Europe found shelter in the city.

Many of them lived in Hongkou District and established deep friendships with local residents who were also suffering at the hands of the Japanese.

“A Children’s Song” has won almost 30 international nominations and awards, including Best Short at the New York Independent Film Festival. It featured at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2016.

The story is about an aspiring Chinese music student who travels to the US and befriends an equally talented young Jewish student. Everything changes when they are to perform an unpublished piece for their academic requirements and discover that they are playing the same song.

They later uncover family secrets leading back to the time when Shanghai was the only safe haven left for Jews fleeing Nazi oppression.

Ganis and his wife first heard about the Jews in Shanghai when they visited the city in 2009. “When I first heard it, I was surprised and moved because I’ve never heard of it before,” he said.


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