Xavierpop Does #TJFF12 – Toronto Jewish Film Festival Reviews – Part I

Running from May 3rd to 13th at various locations around the city, the Toronto Jewish Film Festival is one of the many fantastic Film Festivals that make up the unmatched Cultural DNA that the city of Toronto possesses.  Celebrating its 20th Anniversary with over 95 films representing 15 countries, the festival presents films, documentaries and shorts from around the world on themes of Jewish culture and identity.

This year’s Festival also focuses on the arts, as it presents portraits of writers Philip Roth and Howard Fast; songwriter Jerome Felder (aka Doc Pomus); comic book artist Art Spiegelman; violinist Jascha Heifetz; and movie star Tony Curtis. Cabaret-BerlinThe Wild Scene celebrates the modernity of Berlin’s artistic scene of the 1920’s and early 30’s, and the Jewish artists who contributed to it. And this year’s sidebar series, The Sound of Movies: Masters of the Film Score, celebrates the lives and work of Jewish composers who created (and continue to create) music for the movies.

And of course Xavierpop is there giving the access like no else can.

Our intrepid reviewers Louis (@louisyyz) and MovieJay (@moviejay) have watched a whole whackload of the movies in advance of the festival and these are the first of reviews on them. The Festival has a great lineup and is going all out celebrating its 20th Anniversary so make sure you check it out.

We’ll be there, hopefully we’ll see you.

This is Sodom

Sat May 5 – 11:30PM
Underground Cinema
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The Eretz Nehederet Show (A Wonderful Country) is a hugely successful satirical show that mocks and ridicules the countries leaders, politicians and current events that airs Friday nights in Israel. The troupe that writes and acts in the show recently took the next logical step and moved onto the big screen with This is Sodom as their first film. The movie proved to be a huge success in Israel, breaking box-office records becoming one of the most successful films in the last few decades.

This is Sodom is a comedy that takes a look at God, Abraham, Lot and the destruction of Sodom. God (Eyal Kitzis) appears outside of old Abraham’s (Mordechai Kirschenbaum) tent, seeking to get him to convert to monotheism. During a tough negotiation, Abraham discovers God intends to destroy Sodom, and demands his nephew Lot (Dov Navon), the only righteous man in Sodom, be spared from the destruction. Raphael (Yuval Semo) and Michael (Maor Cohen), two angels, are tasked with the destruction and are well on their way to doing so when God calls them to get Lot out first. Evil King Bera (Eli Finish) intercepts the message, and plots to replace Lot with himself and escape. Using his son, Prince Ninveh (Assi Cohen) to wed Lot’s daughter (Alma Zack). Being a farce, all sorts of doing, counter doings and trickery ensue, also being satire the Biblical story is blown up and reassembled.

The film, from the opening scene, does a fantastic job of making general silliness out of well known Biblical stories. Much like Monty Python‘s ‘Life of Brian’, it seeks to retell these stories with an eye squarely on the absurd. God being a negotiator carrying a briefcase with phone and computer built in, Raphael and Michael dressed as motor cops, complete with riding bikes through the desert, Lot’s wife and daughter only being called Lot’s Wife and Lot’s Daughter, all lead to a general silliness and lightness born from years of hearing the stories as all too serious and solemn. It shows them not as straightforward good and evil, but rather opportunists mucking about trying to make the best of it.

While most of the jokes will be obvious, the language barrier means some of the more subtle aspects of the exchanges are lost. In one scene, there is a double entendre, explained in the subtitles, is quite funny, but suggests other phrases or words might be lost on non Hebrew viewers. Although this does happen, the film only suffers marginally from it and can still be thoroughly enjoyed. An enjoyable mix of sight gags and wordplay, the film relies on at least a little knowledge of Biblical stories. They mix and match stories along the way as it suits them, always with an eye firmly fixed on humor.

The troupe that made this are called ‘The Monty Python of Israel’.  With this film it is very easy to see why. Silliness is their stock and trade and this film definitely brings all of the elements that made their show a hit to the big screen.

Recommended for anyone looking for some laughs.

– Louis (@louisyyz)



Off-White Lies

MAY 9 – 9:00PM BLOOR
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Off -White Lies is the debut effort of writer and director Maya Kenig. It tells the story of Libi (Elya Inbar), a bright, 13 year old girl who has been living with her mother in the United States and has been sent to Israel to live with her father, Shaul (Gur Bentvich). The seemingly shy and quiet girl and her father set out to their new lives together. We soon find Shaul and Libi with friends in the north, hiding in a shelter due to war. In the shelter, Libi hears Shaul admit to his friend that he and the girl have no place to live. Upon leaving, the two venture back south to return the borrowed car, but not gaining a place to stay with the car’s owner, Shaul hits upon the idea of posing as war refugees from the north. Soon they find themselves in a home, building a relationship, but both know the deception cannot last forever.

Shaul is an inventor but has a childlike, eccentric view of himself and the world. Libi, on the other hand, finds the fact she is not still with her mother bad enough, but Shaul’s behavior even worse. It is never made clear why the mother sent the girl to her father, other than a passing mention of a new husband. As the two start to build the father-daughter relationship, Shaul also begins to use the people in the home for personal gain. The father is courted as a business partner for his latest invention, the mother as a new lover, and his own daughter as cover of their true plight.

Shaul never comes off as either a interesting man-child, or as properly roguish, but rather an odd mix of liar and opportunist. Libi comes off as rather annoyed by her father, his actions, and being in this situation, yet is willing to go along with it. Libi has all the teenage angst, coupled with the realization that she has been lied to about her father, her mother, and their relationship. Shaul knows the truth, but seeks to keep hiding behind the lies, simply accepting the situation. I know some of what is going on is lost in translation. There are cultural references that simply will not be understood by a non native speaker in a different country. The story is slow to start, and meanders along at a leisurely pace, never really wanting to rush itself, or its characters into anything.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It is different than the usual, Hollywood style, sappy film about building new relationships with family. It also avoids the cherry ending where it all works out for the best. Instead, it is more of a slice of life film. It is endearing because it is so straightforward in its depiction of this new family trying to find its way. Rather than make it larger than life, it understates its goals and it’s views on life, family, and how the small decisions we make effect one another. In the end, it is family, however dysfunctional, that we care and rely on.


– Louis (@louisyyz)


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