Making its debut last July at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, Carvalho’s Journey has made the rounds at more than a dozen cities across the U.S. Rivo says he has been struck by audiences’ deep interest and enthusiasm for all aspects of Carvalho’s story — especially the depiction of Charleston’s Jewish community during the early 19th century. According to the filmmaker, most viewers are surprised to learn that during that time, the city had the largest Jewish community in America, with more than 600 Jewish residents in 1820. Other audience members connect with the film’s depiction of the early days of photography.
Archives for May 2016
Have you made plans for Valentine’s Day yet? If not, then I suggest you go straight to the Spertus Institute website and order tickets for their screening of Carvalho’s Journey.
Although the Spertus description doesn’t mention this angle, I am here to tell you that Carvalho’s Journey, in addition to all its other virtues, may well be one of the greatest love stories in Jewish American history.
Solomon Nunes Carvalho was an unlikely candidate for activism and for adventuring, but he enthusiastically took on those joint roles as a product of his artistic zeal. “Carvalho’s Journey,” directed by Steve Rivo, is a spirited retelling of the all-but-forgotten story of the Baltimore-based painter and daguerreotypist, a Sephardic Jew who was probably the first professional photographer of his faith, and the man who documented Colonel John Fremont’s quixotic fifth expedition across the American West in 1853. Rivo cleverly opens his film in the middle of Carvalho’s story, with his decidedly urban protagonist agreeing to go into the wilderness with Fremont for a one-of-a-kind journey. It sounds like the scenario for a Jewish remake of “The Revenant,” and there are more than a few passing similarities, but the spiritual and cross-cultural odyssey involved is more benign and more fruitful. Rivo tells the story briskly, with immeasurable assistance from Robert Shlaer, a modern-day practitioner of the daguerreotype who has been recreating Carvalho’s trajectory.