The 2015 Jewish Film Festival has kicked off. The festival cities and dates are:
- Sydney: 28th October to 18th November
- Melbourne: 4th November to 29th November
- Brisbane: 21st, 22nd and 29th November
- Perth: 31st October, 1st and 8th November
- Auckland: 14th, 15th and 22nd November
Here are reviews of Felix and Meira and Censored Voices, two of the films that are showing in the festival.
Felix and Meira
Slow moving but compelling, this Canadian drama concerns a young, unhappy Hasidic wife and mother, Meira, who wants more out of life than the cards she has been dealt. She finds the strictures of her ultraorthodox upbringing are choking her vitality. Meira likes lively popular music – much to her husband’s chagrin – and enjoys drawing. Felix, on the other hand, is a rather eccentric, single, secular man estranged from his wealthy father for a decade. He paints but doesn’t seem to do much else.
His sister encourages him to see his dad on his death bed … and soon after he passes away. In mourning, Felix has a chance meeting with Meira and her daughter in a bakery. At first she ignores him, but through her frustrations an unexpected friendship develops. It soon blossoms into something more as they open one another’s eyes to the possibilities that lie beyond the way they have lived to this point (effectively isolated and lonely). Trapped by tradition, Meira must decide whether to remain in the only life she has ever known or to give it all up to be with Felix.
This touching tale of self-discovery, directed by Maxime Giroux, was a huge hit on the Festival circuit, winning awards at the Toronto, Chicago and San Sebastian Film Festivals. I can well understand why because it is a thoughtful and reflective work, teasing out the consequences of such a forbidden relationship. There is no easy solution whichever way Meira turns and that, of course, is the whole point.
As I have already suggested, the movie is a slow burn that requires patience, but that patience is well and truly rewarded. Meira blossoms during the course of the picture as she yearns for more and Hadas Yaron (Fill the Void) does a fine job playing the role as what could be termed an ingénue.
Felix and Meira is a great movie to see with a friend because it will undoubtedly spark discussion. My only real qualm is that I thought it went on for five minutes too long. In other words, the film called out for an ending a few minutes earlier with a specific scene involving Meira’s husband. See it and see whether you agree with me. Felix and Meira scores a 7½ out of 10.
A powerful and heartfelt documentary, the content of which was banned from public earshot until now, it concerns Israel’s Six Day War. In 1967, Israel was threatened by the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, which had gathered to annihilate the state. Although the gunfire lasted for less than a week, the result was seen as a decisive victory – one to be applauded and celebrated inside the country. But beneath the revelry were stories of the real battles that remained secret.
Directly after the War, a group of young kibbutzniks, led by renowned writer Amos Oz and editor Avraham Shapira, recorded intimate conversations with soldiers about what had just taken place. These conversations took them through their experiences and how they felt. What emerges is a largely conflicted group that don’t paint the rosy picture that was given to the world to see.
There are inherent difficulties with claiming land and conquering people, atrocities were allegedly committed and not all felt good about themselves or about what the future promised. Until Censored Voices was made, the Israeli government had only allowed the release of 30 per cent of what was recorded on those reel-to-reel tapes. Now, for the first time, we get the full picture, so to speak.
Talking of pictures, the visuals of the Six Day War have been drawn from various sources – all of it footage taken at the time. We hear as many as 21 young men talking within 19 days of the end of the war as to the impact it had on them. Instant, gut reactions and reflections. But we literally see them nearly half a century on, as they are today, listening to their own confessions. That undoubtedly gives this documentary even more clout than it would otherwise have had. It is strong and dour filmmaking.
Narrated by Amos Oz, the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won an Ophir Award (the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars) for Best Documentary. Some of what you will hear mightn’t be pretty, but it is certainly important. How could the truth not be? Unfortunately, and dare I suggest that is especially the case today, instead of full disclosure we regularly get “spin”. So, as I just indicated, stripping that back and exposing the totality of events and their repercussions couldn’t be more imperative.
Censored Voices won’t suit everyone’s tastes, but it has been well made and executed and is a critical historical document. It scores a 7½ out of 10.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television