There is a road in northwestern France. It seems quietly off the beaten path. It is known as le chemin des Juifs — the road of the Jews.
Today it is hard, physical evidence of a dark story. It was made during the Second World War by Jewish slave labourers and built to allow access to Adolph Hitler’s Atlantic Wall.
The road has an Ottawa connection. One of the labourers was then a teenager from Antwerp, Belgium. He would eventually endure Auschwitz and then Dachau, from where he was liberated. After the war he moved to this city. David Shentow was his name and, before he passed away in 2017, he became the key interview in a film called Le Chemin des Juifs, directed by Daniel Bhattacharya and produced by Ottawa native Koa Padolsky.
Bhattacharya has another talent. He is a violinist and has had a distinguished career in Britain with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. He has also developed a career as a film and studio musician. His many talents will be on view at the Music and Beyond Festival on July 13 for two performances. The film score will be played live by Bhattacharya with a quintet. He talked about the film and his career in this interview with ARTSFILE.
Q. Tell me a bit about your career as a musician.
A. I am a violinist. I studied at the Purcell School of Music, London, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester and the Royal Conservatory in Toronto. I have given many radio and TV recitals through the world. I have been a member of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as well as playing regularly with all the major ensembles in the UK such as The London Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, London Philharmonic etc. I also co-led the Phantom of the Opera in London’s West End for eight years.
I have spent time teaching at Oxford University and giving classes at the Royal College of Music as well as being Head of Strings at Stowe School. Currently, most of my work is in the recording industry mostly at Abbey Road and Air Lyndhurst Studios. I have played on more that 400 films such as Lord of the Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy, Beauty and the Beast, Gravity and Dunkirk. I have had the privilege of working with many talented artists such as Stevie Wonder, Mary J Blige, Miley Cyrus and Josh Groban.
Q. How did you get into film?
A. I enrolled in a masters in Cinematography at the Brighton Film School when I was 39. Somehow I completed the course, alongside working and having a young family and it was there that I met most of the crew that I worked with for the documentary. The best way to get into film is pretty much to go out and make one.
Q. Why did you get into film?
A. I have always had a love of film. The way you can be completely removed from your everyday life for two or three hours fascinates me.
I had a couple of short films that won competitions when I was at film school and one of them was selected to play at the National Film Theatre, London as part of a festival. I wrote all my short films and also directed them. It was great fun and I learned a lot of what not to do from these experiences! Most of the Hollywood films I work in are within the musical capacity.
Q. How did you get involved in this project?
A. A friend of mine told me that his twin brother, Marcus Roberts, was researching the Chemin Des Juifs. I met him and we started filming. My mother’s family are Jewish and my grandfather fought in the Second World War. After the war my grandfather renounced religion believing that after witnessing those atrocities, there was no God.
Q. What is “Le Chemin des Juifs”?
A. The Jews’ Road is a path in Northern France that was built by Jewish slave labour. The title is relevant to the film as it not only depicts the road itself but the journey taken by David Shentow.
Q. How did you hear about David’s powerful story?
A. Koa Padolsky, our producer, is a friend and was interested in the subject matter of the film. I met Koa and showed her the footage and explained that David was one of the only survivors. By coincidence she is from Ottawa and so was David. Her father, (the architect) Barry Padolsky managed to make contact and the interview was set up.
Q. Have you been to Ottawa as a musician before?
Never. But I have been lucky enough to hear a concert in the great National Arts Centre.
Q. Can you tell me a bit about the composers and the music they have written?
A. Patrick Savage is an old friend who purchased my old apartment from me when I was selling. He was also a member of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and an exceptional violinist. He, along with Holeg Spies, have composed many soundtracks and they were my first port of call for the music. I had a clear idea of the ensemble I wanted (organ, string quintet, viola) and the mood I was looking to create. Patrick and Holeg then produced a stunning soundtrack. I knew that as both highly sensitive musicians they would completely understand the film.
Q. What do film and music contribute to each other?
A. One compliments the other. A film can be visually powerful as a piece of music can be touching and poignant. However it is when the two come together in the most immersive experience of a film that the full depth of emotion can be felt. Can you imagine Star Wars or The Godfather without the music? They would be completely different films. It is the relationship between the two which is crucial and can make or break the film. Hopefully you will agree that on this occasion the music makes the film.
Where: Alma Duncan Salon, Ottawa Art Gallery
When: July 13 at 2 and 5 p.m.