Joe's Violin

PBS Premiere: July 24, 2017Check the broadcast schedule »

Film Update

In July 2017, POV asked Joe's Violin filmmaker Kahane Cooperman what's happened since the cameras stopped rolling.

What's Joe been up to since the film?
Joe has been a huge part of the whole experience since Joe's Violin first premiered. Whenever possible, he attends screenings and participates in Q & A's, charming the audience every time! Since Brianna graduated, she handed his violin to the next recipient at the school. Her name is Nya and she and Joe met each other soon after she received it. Now that Nya has graduated, it's now been handed down to a third student named Sasha and she and Joe have plans to meet soon. It's really incredible that Joe has been able to see the long lasting effects of his generosity and that the violin will continue to have a voice. We all became a family working on the film and stay in touch. When he turned 94 last March, his family invited us to celebrate at his apartment - it was so joyous - Brianna, her mom, Kokoe the violin teacher, our film's producer Raphaela, our editors and me. His cake had a violin decoration on it! Currently, he is writing his memoirs.

And what about Brianna?
Brianna is doing great. She's now 15 and a sophomore at Talent Unlimited - a public performing arts high school in NYC. She was one of ten students to be accepted in her department - having auditioned using Joe's violin. She auditioned with two songs - one of them was Solveig's Song - the poignant song she plays for Joe in the film. She plays violin every day and is as passionate about playing as the first day we met her. She has joined us at many screenings, often performing. She was able to accompany us to the Oscars which we were honored to be nominated for! While in LA, she had the opportunity to play for one of her favorite actors, Denzel Washington - on Joe's violin. The bond and friendship between Joe and Brianna has continued to flourish - it's a beautiful thing.

What were their reactions upon seeing the film?
They both absolutely loved the film and felt it was a very true reflection of what they experienced. We have all cried some happy tears together. For Joe, even though it's painful to relive some of his experiences, he's happy that his family can be remembered in this way. For Brianna, who was 12 at the time of filming - it's wild for her to see a younger version of herself.

How has this film impacted the school or its violin program?
BGLIG made the decision to pass the violin down from student to student as each recipient graduates. It's a true honor and starting at a young age, all the girls dream that they might be the one that gets to play on Joe's violin. Since the film came out, the school has received some nice recognition in the press. Also, strangers who have seen the film, have been moved to make donations which have been incredibly helpful and meaningful to the school. The violin program continues to flourish under the direction of music director Kokoe Tanaka Suwan. The teachers, such as Hannah Van Der Swaag, are amazing and so devoted.

In what ways have you seen or do you hope to see this film add to the conversation around music education programs, the Holocaust and the ways music helps people relate to one another?
It's my hope that Joe's Violin stands as an example of how important music education is in the development of young students - of course it teaches discipline and the payoff of hard work, but its impact on their self-confidence and their ability to express themselves is immeasurable.

For Joe, music not only provided cherished memories of life before the war, it also provided immeasurable comfort throughout his life.
I think Joe and Brianna's stories both help transcend expectations for viewers. It's been really moving to hear young people's curiosity about the Holocaust with Joe humanizing that story for them. Likewise, Brianna is so astoundingly wise and sensitive for her age - at only 12 years old, her wisdom takes people by surprise.

What has been the reception to this film?
The reception to Joe's Violin exceeded our expectations out of the gate. It was a labor of love. While we were making it, we knew how moved we were by the story but really had no clue that it would affect so many people. We couldn't have asked for me.

What are you working on now?
I'm an executive producer and a director of a 4 hour documentary series for SundanceTV. I am also developing ideas for my next film - a documentary of course.