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Thread: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2014

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    San Francisco Jewish Film Festival 2014


    July 24-August 10, 2014

    This will be the second year I have written about the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, in its 34th year, but I won't be reviewing as many films this year, being a lot more selective. There are, I believe, 48 films, including shorts, and I only plan to review five or six, unless I get lured into watching more.

    SFJFF 2014 HOME PAGE. SFJFF 2014 PRESS KIT.

    Filmleaf Forums LINKS AND COMMENTS THREAD.

    PRESS RELEASE:

    34th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
    San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Palo Alto and San Rafael


    San Francisco, CA (June 24, 2014) - The 34th edition of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival returns to the Bay Area July 24-August 10, 2014 at the Castro Theatre and Rayco Photo Center in San Francisco, the CinéArts Theatre in Palo Alto, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael, The California Theatre in Berkeley, and the Grand Lake Theater and The New Parkway Theater in Oakland. The first and still the largest of its kind, the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival SFJFF) continues to present year after year the very best in independent Jewish cinema--offering a full complement of films, festivities, special discussion programs and international guests that highlight 5773 years of culture. For ticket information, please contact the box office at 415.621.0523 or visit the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival online at www.sfjff.org.

    The opening night film is the explosive documentary THE GREEN PRINCE, about a young Palestinian, son of a founder of Hamas who is disgusted by the brutal tactics it uses in prison and its many suicide bombings and is turned by Shin Bit and spies for Israel. "Mosab agrees to spy for Israel. For him, there is no greater shame. For his Shin Bet handler, Gonen, there is no greater prize: "operating" the oldest son of a founding member of Hamas." This was opening night film at Sundance too, and won the World DocumentaryPprize there. US theatrical release 26 September 2014.


    Link index of Filmleaf reviews of the 2014 SFJFF:

    Anywhere Else (Ester Amrami 2014)
    Critico, El (Hernán Guerschuny 2013)
    Father and Son (Pawel Lozinski 2013)
    God's Slave (Joel Novoa 2013)
    Holy Land (Peter Cohn 2014)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 02:05 PM.

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    Ester Amrami: ANYWHERE ELSE (2014)

    Ester Amrami: Anywhere Else (2014)


    GOLO EULER AND NETA RISKIN IN ANYWHERE ELSE

    No geographical solution for ex-pat Israelis?

    The best sequence in this hard-working but ultimately somewhat inconsequential film comes over three quarters of the way in, when the heroine's brother, who's AWOL from the Israeli army, and her German boyfriend, who's paid an surprise two-day visit to Israel, go off by each other for an hour or two on a party night, swim in the ocean, exchange clothes, and tease each other a little, smoking dope, drinking bear, and speaking English. For a moment Amrami sets aside her agenda and throws two of her characters together randomly and sees what might happen. Not much, maybe, but it seems real. These are two equally out of place and uncertain young men momentarily sparring -- and connecting.

    Everything else is all too well defined, as may befit a young Israeli woman working (on a doctorate, about untranslatable words) who, like Amrami herself, is an Israeli living in Germany. In the film, Noa's thesis either isn't going well, or at least potential sponsors have refused to give funding. This in itself is a confusion in the writing: Is the thesis good, or not? We keep seeing brief videos Noa (Neta Riskin) has made of a Russian, a Syrian, a Brazilian, and others explaining, in German, a word in their native language that they miss because there's no word for it in German. Noa's boyfriend, Jörg (Golo Euler), is a tall, strapping redheaded German trombonist, not Aryan, maybe, but so clearly un-Jewish that when he pays a suprise visit to Tel Aviv following upon Noa's surprise visit there, the police are very suspicious. The message is driven home that anyone who's not an Israeli in Israel, or at least Jewish, is suspected of being a terrorist.

    Noa is on a brief escape from the cold and damp of Germany and her uncertain future there for the putatively consoling gemütlichkeit of her very Jewish Israeli family. But that coziness quickly turns sour along all-too-predictable lines: the sourpuss sister Netta (Romi Abulafia) who hates her, the soldier brother, Dudi (Kosta Kaplen), who hates the army, the father, Yossi (Dovaleh Reiser), obsessed with building a rocket shelter in the back yard, the nutty Holocaust survivor grandmother from Poland, Henja (Hana Rieber), who only speaks Yiddish. None of this has emotional resonance, even when grandma starts dying. It's not a good sign that the strongest character is the kvetching, controlling mom, Rachel (Hana Laslo), who, -- who would have guessed? -- wants Noa to marry a nice Jewish doctor, Yoav (Dedi Amrami)! To round things out there's a Latina member of the family, Rose (Alma Ferreras), who can read Hebrew but mostly speaks English. She reads the paper but she tells Jörg it always says the same thing. Ouch! Some of Amrami's comments are not too subtle.

    Jörg stays with Noa's family, never a good idea in such situations, and the claustrophobia that results has comedic possibilities that slip away. Which brings us to Dudi, Noa's AWOL brother, and his evening with Jörg. After this episode, the death of grandma is a helpful device to pump up the emotional volume and provide a sense of an ending, throwing Noa and Jörg, whose relationship already wasn't going well when Noa took her quick run to Tel Aviv, back together, if only temporarily.

    Noa's flight to Israel is dealt with so rapidly in the film you might think it was meant as comedy: she gets into a taxi in Germany, and then gets out of a taxi with Hebrew on it, walks to the sidewalk and finds her mother and Hey presto! has zipped from Berlin to Tel Aviv in twenty seconds.

    Though this film feels somewhat sketchy, or sitcom-ish, it's still a young expatriate's serious look back at the Israeli homeland from the perspective of a German resident. There are some pointed observations: the brother's dismissive comment to Jörg that the whole Arab-Israeli thing is, in historical terms, not even a footnote, just barely "a comma"; the strange tableau of a loud alarm sounding on veterans day and everybody getting out of their cars and standing at attention; the sight of a young merrymaker in the evening pacing the street draped full length in an Israeli flag. But Amrami doesn't seem ready to make much of the perspective these details suggest.

    The diagnosis of Variety's Jay Weissberg, who reviewed this Youth Prize-winning film in February at the Berlinale, is "An enjoyable but slight drama that only fitfully lives up to its promise." He's certainly right on that and on a lot of other things, besides listing the untranslatable words, giving the appropriate Yiddish terms for the family members' roles and personalities, noting the value of Riskin's wisdom in playing Noa as rough and unappealing at times; and acknowledging that Hana Lazlo is the strongest actress, however stereotypical she is as the mother. He's also right that Jörg and Noa could have had stronger chemistry. He's a bit unfair in declaring Golo Euler colorless. He just seems bland when surrounded by all those Jewish drama queens jostling for position. He's more than a head taller than all of them, and that sets him apart as much as he can be with his underwritten part.

    Amrami is trying to do too much here, and not coordinating everything. As Weissberg noted, she hit on something fascinating -- he calls it "brilliant" --though maybe hard to fit into an academic "scientific" format. This is the idea of studying words people miss from their own language when living in another culture. But this is a metaphor thrown out and not connected to the main action, or to Noa's dilemma. The implications of place and displacment, not to mention the potent chemistry of a contemporary German plunked down uninvited in the middle of a typical Israeli family, are never adequately developed. But there is interesting stuff here that with luck Amrami may develop further in another movie.

    Anderswo ["Elsewhere"]/Anywhere Else, 84 mins., a first feature in German, Hebrew, Yiddish, and English which debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 14, 2014 and also showed in Karlovy in July. Reviewed on a screener as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, where it will be shown July 29 (Castro Theater, San Francisco) and August 6 (California Theater, Berkeley).


    July 24-August 10, 2014
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 02:13 PM.

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    Hernán Guerschuny: EL CRÍTICO (2013)

    Hernán Guerschuny: El Crítico (2013)


    DOLORES FONZI AND RAFAEL SPREGELBURD IN EL CRITICO

    You can't have everything

    Film critics aren't usually the protagonists of films. They just review them. They may not be too keen on reviewing a mocking depiction of themselves. So Argentinian director Hernán Guerschuny shows bravery and a certain wit in daring to make a powerful but oddball critic the central character of his movie, El Crítico. Victor Tellez (Rafael Spregelburd) is a bearded, grumpy soul, the reviewer for an important Buenos Aires newspaper. After near daily sessions in a dingy screening room he and three colleagues gather for coffee and trash what they've seen, reserving their most dismissive remarks for romantic comedies. Tellez loathes them. But, as luck would have it, and as the action of El Crítico unfolds, he himself will turn out to be stuck in his own rom-com. Guerschuny makes this device work using a style that's both knowing and accessible, referential and cute. Sentimental viewers get a wistful romance, while flm nerds are treated to an allusive meta-tale. The movie steers a narrow line between tongue-in-cheek and sweet, and maintains just enough of a balance of sophistication and accessiblity to make it work. In the cinema of exhausted ideas, cross off another one.

    The picture of a film critic as a sullen boor won't flatter actual reviewers, but they may like being depicted as having a power to make or break a film only a few ever do. Tellez can't be taken too seriously: he's a stereotype to play with, just like the cliches of rom-com.

    Tellez is a Francophile movie snob so gone on the the Nouvelle Vague he talks to himself continually in French. He suffers from "maladie du cinéma," he tells himself. His sixteen-year-old niece Agatha (Telma Crisanti), a video shop clerk and rom-com fan, finds those old black-and-white French films simply "out of date." His colleagues, including Schuster (Daniel Kargieman, in a baseball cap that makes him look like Michael Moore), provide him with a small, quiet, nerdy claque utterly supporting Tellez's assumption that most movies today are crap, totally predictable and only worthy of cinephile contempt. Tellez 's editor at the paper, on the other hand, is becoming uncomfortable with his reviews, aware that both the public and local movie executives are increasingly fed up with Tellez's caustic writing.

    Tellez isn't just a critic. He's dodging an angry young filmmaker, Arce (Ignacio Rogers), who pursues and confronts him. And he's working on a script himself, for a boss with the cult-referential name of Gorodisch (Eduardo Iaccono). Tellez naturally knows a thing or two about plot lines, and can reel off all the cliches of rom-com in twenty seconds: the meet-cute, the offbeat first date, the first kiss with fireworks in the background, the tumultuous encounters in a heavy rain, the doubts, the reconciliation, the climax involving running and an airport. But all this is what, with tongue firmly in cheek, Guerschuny offers us for Tellez himself, with Sofia (Dolores Fonzi, the wife of Gael García Bernal), a charming, exotic, madcap and mysterious woman. She has the kind of odd accent that, in movies, Victor notes -- unable to tell life from films -- will justify an international co-production. Sofia, who turns out to be from Madrid and here only temporarily, has rom-com quirks. She's well off, but steals things. She has a pink bike helmet. Her clothes are offbeat but stylish. The meet-cute involves real estate. Sofia turns up just as Tellez has found the apartment of his dreams. It's big, airy, bright, old fashioned, very similar in feel, in fact, to the Paris flat in an Eric Rohmer movie. And she steals it away from him. He pursues her, not for herself, but for the apartment. Is this a love affair with a Spanish woman, or with a perfect apartment? As we learn housing costs are rising in Buenos Aires we wonder if this movie isn't more about real estate than romance. Isn't finding a perfect house like falling in love?

    But Tellez does fall for Sofia. They have their first kiss, with the obligatory fireworks in the background. They make love at his place. She likes how he makes toast. Then she spots his jealous ex-girlfriend Roxana (Ana Katz) and gets turned off. Heavy rain, crashing into a movie set, script deliveries in a golf bag: the allusions, jokes, and original details multiply. Arce's plotting against Tellez turns the action in a thriller direction for a while. Tellez turns mushy. Now he's living in a rom-com, he starts to like them, and even, hilariously, weeps at one in a screening as his friends laugh and sneer. They assume his reviews are being rewritten by his editor. They forgive him: it's happened to everybody. His gushy platitude in a review of a sentimental movie, "Life is a journey with many opportunities" is quoted on a poster displayed everywhere in the city.

    Some of the action, including events involving the niece and the angry filmmaker, seem merely plot filler, and as the movie goes into its last third it risks becoming as banal as the rom-coms it's been warning us about. But there are still good and funny moments and the movie references to spot keep on coming. (Rom-coms may be the easiest genre to copy and mock. El Crítico leaves the others untouched.)

    El Critico, Argentina, 90 mins., debuted 11 April 2013 at Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Cinema. The film has a US theatrical release coming by Music Box. Watched on a screener for this review as part of the 2014 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival; and there are Jewish actors and references: Sofia, for instance tells Tellez she's attended kaddish for her father. SFJFF showings : Aug 2 (California Theater, Berkeley), Aug. 3 (Castro, San Francisco), Aug 9 (Smith Theater, San Rafael).


    July 24-August 10, 2014
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 02:13 PM.

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    Joel Novoa: GOD'S SLAVE (2013)

    Joel Novoa: God's Slave (2013)


    MOHAMMED ALKHALDI AND VANDO VILLAMIL IN GOD'S SLAVE

    Method and madness surrounding terrorism against Jews in 1990's Argentina

    God's Slave is the first feature of Argentinian director Joel Novoa, the son of producer-director José Ramón Novoa and filmmaker-theater director Elia Schneider. The script is by Uruguayan novelist and short story writer Fernando Butazzoni, who previously worked on the script of A Far Off Place (2009). Based on actual events, it begins with long parallel passages profiling two men on opposite sides of a long, bitter war. Tensely and methodically, Novoa follows an Arab terrorist long under cover and a Mossad agent in Buenos Aires. Just past half way through the movie, the film achieves a dramatic coup: it brings the two men together. David Goldman (TV vet Vando Villamil), following a tip, spots Admed Al Hassamah (strong newcomer Mohammed Alkhaldi) on a dark Buenos Aires street. Ahmed, following orders, has come here from Caracas, where he has been living as a kind of "mole" for years. He is a surgeon in a hospital there and has a wife who adores him and a charming little boy. Tonight his dawr, his "turn," has come. (Members of the little cell he's temporarily living with for some reason speak French as well as Arabic to each other. They are all devout Muslims dedicated to becoming martyrs.) On the next day he's supposed to blow himself up. Breaking the rules, he has just slipped away from the cell, pretending he's going to the mosque to pray, but in fact he has had doubts.

    Since this is a movie about an Arab doctor and a suicide bombing, it invites comparison to Ziyad Doueri's The Attack (SFJFF 2013). But in The Attack, the award winning Palestinian surgeon works in Israel, and is startled to learn about a suicide bombing probably carried out by his wife. He comes to understand why a Palestinian could become a suicide bomber, but his wife is now a stranger to him, and he does not accept the validity of such actions. In God's Slave, we're confronted even more starkly with the enigma of a successful person with a good life who, because of an old wrong, would wait for years to give his life to kill others.

    Goldman and Al Hassouna both have a bloody wrong in their past that motivates them. In the opening vignette little Al Hassouna as a boy in Lebanon sees his father and mother killed by Israeli agents (though his father was suspected of cooperating with the Jews). Goldman, we learn later, was radicalized and joined the Mossad when he witnessed his brother's assassination in Israel. Both are devout and both have wives and children. Both have left their native lands to live in Latin America bringing their passions and resentments with them into their new lives.

    A series of suicide bombing assaults on the large Argentinian Jewish community has been taking place. It's 1994. The day before this exciting encounter, the terrorist cell has achieved it's biggest coup. Their martyr has killed 84 people. This is a particular blow for Goldman, who has been responsible for preventing further such events. He is told he is to be transferred, and is desperate this night to accomplish something, to redeem himself in some way in the little time before he's withdrawn.

    The film's achievement is to build up a convincing background around both opposed protagonists while maintaning a strong forward thrust. Vanno Villamil has a sullen, angry intensity as Goldman. Alkhaldi has good looks and panache. He could be both a terrorist and a surgeon. He doesn't seem particularly Lebanese, so it's no surprise to learn his background is Kuweiti/ He makes a striking presence; but that beard he wears, doesn't it mark him as a Muslim fundamentalist a mile off? It's hard to say as some do that Novoa and Butazzoni maintain an even non-judgmental view of the two protagonists. By choice the protagonists are different, Ahmed the aggressor, Goldman the protector -- though he too, kills. This is hardly a Muslim terrorist recruiting film. But what you can say is we get an equally good look at both. The movie presents convincing atmosphere and linguistic authenticity, including the Lebanese prologue, the terrorist meet-ups in various Arabic accents, the Spanish-language family scenes, the Mossad dealings in Hebrew.

    In a review in ernando Lopez of points out that the filmmaker is only 27. But he has worked as an assistant director with his father and this shows fine teamwork.

    As Fernando Lopez points out in a review in La Nación, the filmmaker was educated at the University of California, and he is only 27, but has a lot of experience in film, especially as an assistant director with his father; and this film is obviously the work of an excellent team.

    God's Slave/Esclavo de Dios, 90 mins, debuted in June 2013 in the Venezuelan Film Festival, also playing in Uraguay, Mar del Plata, and Santa Barbara. Watched for this review on a screener as part of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (July 24-August 10, 2014), where it plays Aug. 1 (Castro, San Francisco), Aug. 8 (Grand Lake, Oakland), Aug. 9 (San Rafael Film Center).


    July 24-August 10, 2014
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 02:13 PM.

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    Peter Cohen: HOLY LAND (2014)

    Peter Cohn: Holy Land (2014)


    MOHAMMED TAMIMI AND IDF SOLDIER TELLING HIM TO BACK OFF IN HOLY LAND



    Recent glimpses of the two sides in the West Bank

    Peter Cohn calls Hamas "internationally blacklisted," and points out that international bodies such as the UN mostly consider the Jewish settlements in the West Bank illegal. He moves around in his short documentary from one place to another. A young Jewish settler from Beverly Hills dreams of a time when he and his family will walk around "our land" and not be "attacked by Arab mobs." He imagines his little family as pioneers as in the early days of the State of Israel. Nasri Sabarna, the mayor of a small Palestinian town, Bet Ommar, is at odds with the Palestinian Authority which focuses only on taxes and ignores the needs of his local people. He has donated his entire salary to poor locals. Sadly, he gives up and resigns, but a week later his son is married, a joyous occasion. Hagif Ofran, bespectacled and with a big mop of curly hair, is an Israeli woman working for Peace Now. Ofran takes photos of everything, including Palestinian boys throwing rocks and Israeli police firing tear gas back at them. An Arab landowner protests that his land has been encroached upon by Jewish settlers who cut down 40 of his olive trees. Yarif Oppenheimer, the Peace Now director, notes, as do many, that the settlements, increasing as they do, are making a two-state solution impossible. The elderly, ailing Rabbi Menachem Froman started the post-1967 settlement movement but says it was betrayed. With his young rabbi son he is an emissary of peace. He notes one meaning of "Hebrew" is "hubris, arrogance, pride." The tall Froman, impressive in a long fleecy white beard, gets more air time, and, in his last days, is tireless.

    Nabi Saleh is a flashpoint town. A demonstrator, Mustafa Tamini, is hit in the face with an Israeli tear gas canister and dies the next day. His cousin, Mohammed Tamimi, speaks. Mohammed publishes a magazine celebrating Mustafa, and is involved in resistance. When Israeli soldiers attacking his town at night (like Americans in Afghanistan?) he films them. During this night raid Cohen captures a revealing scene when an Israeli soldier keeps yelling at Mohammed Tamimi to get inside and stop filming while he protests it's not his house and he's a journalist. This closely resembles scenes of Emad in Five Broken Cameras.

    For this Tamimi is tried in a military court and sentenced to three months in prison. Cohn doesn't comment, but this has gone one for many years. A case just like this will be found in Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi's Five Broken Cameras (ND/NF 2012) See Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's important documentary, The Law in These Parts (SFIFF 2011), which with The Gatekeepers (NYFF 2012) are radical Israeli exposes of business as usual over the decades. (Cohen has noted in his blog that these documentaries got aired on PBS when AIPAC wasn't looking.) We should also mention the depiction of Palestinians in West Bank towns engaged in protest, sometimes with success, Julia Bacha's Budrus (2009).

    Cohn covers Migron, a militant settlement, and Burqa, a nearby Palestinian town. Migron settlers have come and defaced walls with threats in Burqa. Migron is under orders from the government to evacuate, and they make a motion to remove this order that goes to the Israeli Supreme Count. Palestinian local residents are there to testify to the seizing of their property. Hagif Ofran is there supporting the Palestinians. The court rejects the Migron petition and issues a final evacuation order. Israeli security forces come to force evacuation of settlers from Migron. (It can happen. When does it and when doesn't it? Cohen does not provide lengthy explanations, only brief captions.) Settlers are taken out literally kicking and screaming; and of course, this is not good either, and Hagif notes that the demolition of their dreams is not something she can be happy about.

    Cohen has something new in his depiction of "Aron," who in Old Jerusalem runs a Jewish "boot camp" in one-on-one urban self defense, or rather violent counter attack, for "Jewish kids" who "come from all over the world." He teaches a simple hate Arabs, Israel is for Jews message, mentioning 6 million Jews and Auschwitz. Unfortunately, there are Arabs nearby, and a lot of them are women and children, who don't fit Aron's simple hate message.

    An election is held in Bet Ommar for the first time in years and Nasri, previously an appointee, enters it and wins. In traditional Arab fashion, he is carried through he streets on the backs of cheering men.

    But the film ends with the evacuation of Migron, the death of Rabbi Froman, and his burial, with bearded men singing the 23rd Psalm to guitar and accordion and much coverage with expensive digital cameras. Finally, a glimpse of Palestinian locals, apparently joyous, perhaps moving back into land seized by the Migron settlers.

    His approach is "non-didactic," Cohen says, and it does keep going back and forth between the two sides, focusing on a few sympathetic people, hardworking and idealistic, mostly. What results is a powerful journal of a year or so in this land some call "Holy." In a way the film is just eloquent notes. And this review is just jottings about the film. There is some new material here; much of it is familiar from other documentaries. But everything adds to the tapestry, and Cohen's film serves as an update. By way of conclusion it offers the observation, repeated by peace activist and Palestinian rights advocate Hagif Ofran, that with the Jewish settlements, a two-state solution is rapidly approaching impossibility. This was clear years ago. Something had to be done to curtail the settlements and it was not done. Notably, from an American point of view, President Obama's failure to do anything to push Israel to dismantle the settlements has been a de facto ratification of Israel's dominance in the region, a status regarded by much of the world as illegal and unsustainable, but about which nothing can be done as long as America covers for and finances Tel Aviv. Watching this film during the sixth or seventh Israeli siege of Gaza in the past ten or eleven years, it may seem only a minor footnote: but it is important to see that people on both sides are trying to do things more quietly.

    Holy Land, 70 mins., is a new documentary. Peter Cohn has a blog with information related to the project. Watched for this review on a screener for the 2014 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. It shows July 29, 2014 at the Castro Theater (San Francisco) and Aug. 2 at the California Theater (Berkeley).


    July 24-August 10, 2014
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-21-2018 at 09:23 AM.

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    Pawel Lozinski: FATHER AND SON (2013)

    Pavel Lozinski: Father and Son (2013)


    MARCEL AND PAWEL LOZINSKI IN FATHER AND SON

    Inward journey

    The searching but deceptively simple little documentary Father and Son, in Polish, is little more than a running conversation between Marcel Lozinski, 70, and his son Pawel, 50, as they ride from Poland to Paris traveling and sleeping in a VW van. "Little more" is not meant to suggest this material is ever for a minute trivial. Both men are accomplished documentary filmmakers, who have worked separately and together, and a considerable command of craft is revealed in the way these two artists fuse economy with richness.

    There's nowhere to hide in the strung-together conversations in which the dad is sometimes viewed in an unrelenting light by his son, who voices love, but some resentments. This was evidently a bohemian, experimental family, and as happens in such cases, the son has wound up more conservative about child-rearing than his father. Marcel, who was very young when Pawel was born, raised him as an equal, a "little man." This may have been fun, but it had its down side. Marcel recounts stealing a toy locomotive for Pawel when he wanted it and they had no money, a loving, but also irresponsible gesture. There were more substantial gifts: after all, Pawel became a filmmaker like his father. But it emerges that Marcel left for another woman when Pawel was 18, then at times treated Pawel as a father, asking his advice, having him take his brother and a half brother on a vacation, and offering nothing in return. A present-time hint of role reversal comes when Pawel makes his dad get up and wash his teeth one night.

    There are warm, nice moments too; the two men love each other. Marcel talks about what a wonderful child Pawel was, adventurous, curious, full of life, taking charge. When he expresses worry about aging and memory loss, Pawel hugs him and kisses him and tells him "don't worry, we'll take care of you; we'll be your memory, your external hard drive."

    Marcel spent years in several children's homes in France (evidently hiding, because he was Jewish, though this is not mentioned). He rarely saw his mother, who was in the French resistance, a painful time he has repressed. But he has good memories of France too that they are going to Paris to revisit, and also the burial place of Marcel's mother's ashes in a Paris park. "Enfin, la douce France! Mais oui, regarde ça!" Marcel exclaims as they enter the country. The film ends happily, with a playful hug in a Parisian park. There have been some difficult memories and some tough questions, but one feels this has been a ceremony of reconciliation and love. The film is so spare there are lacunae for us, the viewers, Was Marcel's mother French? Who was his father? How and when did his parents die? Whose suicide does he recount? But the tete-a-tete's intentness in the seanless editing thus is never interrupted, and we watch with bated breath, till the tension dissipates in the final moments.

    An elegant motif of memory is a weathered old sepia film (artificially distressed?) showing presumably the father and son and mother long ago, accompanied by Lucienne Delyle's recording of André Claveau's very French, very period 1950 French song Domino about forgiving a frivolous loved one.

    Information about this film is limited, but an article at Cultur.Pl summarizes Pawel's life and career. He and Marcel worked together on two films including the 1993 Academy Award-nominated 89 mm od Europy/89 mm from Europe. Pawel's mostly short documentaries (only one feature) are often "simple, intimate films, documenting ordinary peoples' stories." He is inflienced by Krzysztof Kieślowski, with whom he worked on the latter's White. There is another alternate 74 min. version of this documentary credited to Marcel Lozinski entitled Ojciec i syn w podróży/Father and Son on a Journey; both versions have won prizes. The existence of the two versions indicates that father and son could not agree on a common jointly titled film as originally planned.

    Father and Son/Ojciec i syn, in Polish, 54 mins., debuted 29 May 2013 at Kracow (where it won the documentary prize), and the two versions have shown at various festivals, also winning prizes at Moscow and Teheran. Screened for this review as part of the 2014 San Francisco Jewish Film Festival where it shows 1 August 2014 at California Theater, Berkeley.


    July 24-August 10, 2014
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-02-2015 at 02:14 PM.

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