Seventh Art Releasing

NEW YORK -- A powerful Holocaust tale is given a terribly ham-fisted treatment in "Miriam," demonstrating two things yet again: that true stories often can feel much more wildly implausible than fictional ones, and that Holocaust-themed dramas need to be handled in highly responsible fashion. Director/co-screenwriter Matt Cimber fails to live up to that responsibility, though it does offer a powerful performance by Ariana Savalas (Telly Savalas' daughter) in the title role.

Miriam Schafer was a Lithuanian Jew who survived the Holocaust as well as the Soviet persecution. Orphaned as a young girl and interned in a labor camp, she was rescued by the Jewish underground and, thanks to her non-Jewish looks, taken in by an Aryan couple. Unfortunately, her troubles were only beginning as her male protector soon began repeatedly raping her, resulting in a pregnancy.

Forced to fend for herself as a single mother, she concealed her religious identity after the Russian occupation of the country and eventually fell in love with a Russian man who turned out to be a KGB officer.

Despite an effort to inject some respectability into the proceedings via the use of filmed interviews with actual Holocaust survivors, "Miriam" suffers from Cimber's highly exploitative approach and shoddy execution. Depicting the central character's travails with a horror movie-style aesthetic, the film features wooden performances by its supporting cast, cheap production values, amateurish cinematography and a disjointed, terribly awkward script that doesn't begin to do justice to its subject matter. Its only distinctive aspect is the impressive turn by its young leading actress, who was only 18 years old when the picture was filmed.