SLIFF 2010 Review: AHEAD OF TIME - We Are Movie Geeks

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AHEAD OF TIME is an engrossing new documentary chronicling the remarkable life of 100 year old feminist pioneer Ruth Gruber, an American journalist, author, photographer, humanitarian, and government official. A close friend of Virginia Wolff, Gruber was, in 1931 the youngest person in the world to have received a Ph.D and has advanced degrees in German Philosophy, Modern English Literature and Art History. She was the first journalist to enter the Soviet Arctic, escorted Holocaust refugees to America, and covered the Nuremberg trials. Quite an accomplishment for a woman in that time period, perhaps the film should have been titled ‘Ahead of Her Time’

Much of AHEAD OF TIME is a series of new interviews by filmmaker Bob Richman with Gruber as she speaks candidly and proudly of her achievements, obsessions, and globetrotting career. She’s a unique historical figure and quite the raconteur. Ms Gruber is fascinating to watch and listen to, but there is plenty of archival footage to liven things up and keep the film from becoming too static. Gruber’s is best known for her book ‘Exodus 1947’, which chronicled her first-hand account of the famous ship that was attacked by the Royal Navy while making an attempt to deliver 4,500 Jewish refugees.

The footage of the SS Exodus is the highlight of this documentary and made me want to learn more about this event. Ruth Gruber got married in 1951, gave birth to two children and continued her journalistic travels. She wrote a popular but decidedly un-feminist column for Hadassah Magazine, “Diary of an American Housewife” and Richman gives these later chapters of her life far less screen time. Before watching AHEAD OF TIME, I had never heard of Ruth Gruber but am glad I have now. AHEAD OF TIME is recommended.

AHEAD OF TIME will play during the 19th Annual Stella Artois St. Louis International Film Festival on Sunday, November 14th at 1:00 pm at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema.

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