In 2008, the Tolpolars went from Brazil to Moldova (former Bessarabia ) to search for their Jewish roots. Their ancestors moved to Brazil in 1931, that’s how they survived World War II. During the trip a documentary was shot, narrating the search for family traces, the history of Bessarabian Jews, and the uniqueness of this little known and fascinating country.Having the camera as the traveling eye, everything is seen through its lens.
The Tolpolars walk through the capital Chisinau, Edinitz, Orhei and many other cities and villages, experiencing what Moldova is, its variety of ethnicities, and the few Jews who still live there. This Jewish population is not renewing itself, it is not getting any younger, and its memories are dying. It belongs to a past that is slowly vanishing. Monuments, buildings, and landmarks of the once vibrating Jewish community are in decay.
Former Soviet Republic and independent since 1991, Moldova is a country in construction; in search of identity – it is a country without being a nation. Moldovans are divided between the ones who miss the old days of Russian communism and those who dream of progress and identify with Romania . Ironically, the Tolpolars traveled to look for the traces of their people in a country with troubled memories of its own history and uncertain of its past. Mamaliga is a staple food in Moldova . Going back to their roots meant something like Mamaliga: something basic, warm and strangely familiar.
Cassio Tolpolar was born and raised in the south of Brazil and worked for seven years as an Assistant Director on various documentaries, short films, TV shows and commercials. Cassio’s debut as a Director and Writer, the short Venus, was screened in a number of film festivals around the world and won several awards, leading him to direct for television and, ultimately, to move to the USA and complete the MFA in Film at the San Francisco Art Institute. He has been affiliated with film institutions such as Sundance (Sundance/NHK Award and the Film Festival), Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Upon his arrival in the US, he worked in a number of experimental short films, TV shows and documentaries. Cassio currently lives in Los Angeles, where he is developing a feature film project and editing the documentary about his Jewish family roots in Moldova, Mamaliga Blues.