There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Jon Stewart took the stage after a screening of the Oscar-nominated short film “Joe’s Violin” in New York on Monday, but Stewart quickly had the crowd in stitches — all at President Donald Trump’s expense.
“Joe’s Violin” tells the story of a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor who donates his violin to an instrument drive and later connects with the 12-year-old schoolgirl from the Bronx who receives it.
The improbable friendship between the Polish refugee Joe Feingold and Brianna Perez, whose family is from the Dominican Republic, feels especially timely in light of the Trump administration’s continued efforts to turn away refugees and crack down on immigrants entering the U.S.
“It’s a shame that a film like this — in a time like this — has no resonance,” Stewart joked before moderating a conversation with the film’s director Kahane Cooperman and producer Raphaela Neihausen. “A simple story of humanity amongst people who share music through immigration and refugees…It’ll be a shame to see them both deported in Donald Trump’s America.”
Stewart’s connection to the documentary comes through Cooperman, who’s won 11 Emmys and two Peabodys as an executive producer of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” She and Neihausen raised the money to produce the short partially through a Kickstarter campaign that attracted 272 donations and almost $50,000. Cooperman first had the idea for the short after hearing a radio ad for the instrument drive, which noted that one of the violins that had been donated came from a Holocaust survivor.
By documenting the moment that Feingold met the new recipient of the violin, Cooperman was able to capture the start of the unlikeliest of friendships. “The simplicity of it is I think what makes it so powerful,” Stewart said. “You just followed a violin.” The instrument drive was organized by the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation and the New York radio station WQXR.
“It’s very pure and simply on one level, and then unexpectedly you realize it’s about much bigger things in life,” Cooperman said. “I’m really proud of that part of it, and how the two main subjects portray these ideas of what matters in life and where our moral values are.”
“Joe’s Violin” is one of five shorts nominated in the Best Documentary Short Subject category at the 89th Academy Awards, which takes place on February 26. The short is presented online by The New Yorker magazine and Conde Nast Entertainment. To watch the full short film, click on the video below.