Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jason goes to Jewfest North--Day 10

Another day up at the Roda Theatre in Berkeley, two more shows.

The first started with a short, THE RABBI AND CESAR CHAVEZ. Director Daniel Robin is the son of a rabbi. And, in fact, his father was a rabbi in Bakersfield who supported César Chávez and even learned about and warned him of a credible plot against his life. Pretty interesting stuff.

And then the feature, PAPIROSEN. It's more of a collection of family movies than a real narrative or traditional documentary. And oftentimes it doesn't really explain what's going on. Director Gaston Solnicki made this film about his family, and mostly about his father Victor, born right at the end of WWII. His (Gaston's) grandmother narrates part of it, and in particular the pain of his father's (Victor's father, Gaston's grandfather) suicide. Or, as he explains to Gaston's nephew Mateo, "he died of sadness." But for most of the movie, I was just confused and bored by what I was seeing. Maybe if I knew the family (and if I saw it a few more times maybe I would) I would be interested. But as it was, this was the first film in the festival where I couldn't find at least some thread to hold onto and carry me through the film.

Then the second film I saw was BROKEN, a drama about troubled schoolkids in a low-income, predominantly African or Muslim neighborhood outside Paris, and the young, brave Jewish teacher who hopes to make a difference in their lives. But this is not the story of the bright teacher who inspires her students. This is a story of a system that is so broken that it can't really help the kids and all the teachers can do is hope to survive. Anna Kagan is the new history teacher in the school. Her class has a number of problem kids, especially Moussa, a black "kid" whose easily the largest person in the film, has anger problems, and is 17 (although this is a third grade class.) The most promising student is Lakdar--or rather was Lakdar. He had a gift for drawing, enough that he saw a way out of poverty by becoming a cartoonist. Problem is, his hand was broken and the overworked doctor in the ER (who happens to be Jewish) set the plaster too tight, resulting in permanent damage. Anna has difficulty gaining the kids respect, trouble in the neighborhood leads to riots. You keep expecting a breakthrough and some epiphany that there is still a way to succeed. But this isn't a fairy tale story, this is the far too common reality. Well acted and well written...and tragic.

Total Running Time: 200 minutes
My Total Minutes: 294,861

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