Xavierpop Does #TJFF12 – Toronto Jewish Film Festival Reviews – Part III
We are around the first bend being the first weekend of the 20th Toronto Jewish Film Festival. We have been in providing some reviews over the past week. Be sure to catch Part I and Part II here as well as some info on some of the free screenings the festival is mounting here. Now we bring you Part III of our coverage.
Enjoy and hope to see you at the festival.
In the Shadow of No Towers
If you love the documentary “Crumb” by Terry Zwigoff about artist and cartoonist Robert Crumb, you’ll appreciate this double bill of two long shorts about cartoonist and editor Art Spiegelman. “The Art of Spiegelman” is an overview of his life, born to Polish Jews who survived WWII and made their way to America. The film weaves together interviews of Spiegelman and his wife, Francoise Mouly and is filled with a multitude of images from his work as co-editor of the magazines Raw and Arcade, and as a contributing editor to the New Yorker mag in the 90′s. You may recall some of his covers particularly at the time of the Lewinsky scandal with an image he drew of President Clinton‘s pants being hounded by the paparazzi.
In 1992, Spiegelman found fame after we won a Pulitzer Prize for “Maus”, a graphic novel culled from images over the decades from stories of his parents at the time of the Holocaust, to the heart-wrenching time in the late 60′s after Spiegelman’s mother committed suicide.
His next big work was “In the Shadow of No Towers”, where he animates the details surrounding the events of 9/11, located essentially in the cartoonist’s backyard. “The Art of Spiegelman” is an interesting documentary particularly for fans of edgier, adult-oriented comics and graphic novels.
The second short, based on the title of his work on 9/11, is a wonderful multi-media presentation that dives into his comic and is narrated with aplomb by John Turturro. It follows Art’s ruminations over 9/11, as well as the mundane details of that horrifying day as he and his wife went on a search for their daughter, who had just started going to high school, located less than a couple blocks from the World Trade Center. The images are magnificent and haunting, and throughout both films you can really feel the organic process that his final images have gone through, from life experience at first, to contemplation, to the rendering of them.
Terrific special interest doc here about a relatively happy, open-faced man who lives the artist’s life and who is fascinated by the way he can divorce his feelings from the most morbid of events through his work.
MAY 7 – 6:00PM BLOOR
MAY 9 – 8:00PM SHEPPARD
This is a movie that finds us dropping into a time not covered so much on film: the years following World War II. Our story begins from the POV of 10 yr-old Tadek, a Polish Jew being raised to believe he is Catholic. See, his mother represents a more secret kind of Holocaust survivor, one who changed her identity entirely in order to protect herself.
But now Tadek, brought into a Neo-Nazi gang by his brother Andrzej, has gotten in trouble for beating up on Jews for sport. Halina, their mother, not afraid to use her beautiful looks to her advantage, lays down a pack of lies to the on-duty police officer, setting her boys free. Halina is beside herself at the news of what they were up to. The truth is revealed to the boys. She decides it isn’t the best environment for her sons and they briskly depart to Haifa, Israel–though Tadek is assured they’re going to Australia, a country he idealizes.
“My Australia” has you leaning forward in fascination and wonder at a most precarious time in history for this specific kind of family in a story that must have sadly been common to many survivors. The movie does a terrific job of compartmentalizing the adult world of Halina with the child’s world of Tadek, a boy now forced into a coming-of-age where his entire value system and identity come into play. The story arc belongs with him. In an early scene after Halina has gotten them out of the police station, she asks Tadek, “You were beating on Jews?!”. Tadek smiles, proudly, as though it was an achievement. But from the very next sequence he is shaken out of his own young cemented-mind and by the end of the film has journeyed hundreds of miles both physically and internally in just a few short months.
It won the Audience Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, and that comes as no surprise. This is a very thoughtful human drama.