Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Brothers filming brothers: In AIDA'S SECRETS, Alon & Shaul Schwarz offer up a riveting and unusual post-Holocaust documentary

Yes, the Holocaust, as unfathomable and horrendous as it was, continues to unveil some of the more amazing tales the world has yet seen. Eventually some of these reach the screen in the form of either documentary or narrative movies, and this week one more of these, and certainly one of the strangest (as well as one that seems to be continually unfurling) opens here in South Florida (and elsewhere).

AIDA'S SECRETS, a fine and nourishing documentary by brothers Alon and Shaul Schwarz, takes us to Israel, Canada and back again, as a family -- most members of whom have no idea that they even are a family -- reunites. Of course the film packs an emotional wallop at times, but even more exceptional is how much food for thought it consistently provides.

The filmmakers, shown above with Alon Schwarz on the left, bring us here a story so filled with surprise (and, yes, secrets) that you'll have to listen and watch pretty intently to make certain you take in all the details on offer. And there are plenty. To go much into those details here would spoil a good deal of the surprise that the documentary engenders.

So let's just say that the other member of this odd family, mother Aida (shown below, in her younger days, and further below in present-day), has enough secrets -- along with good reasons for keeping them so -- to easily fill out the film's 90-minute running time. Of particular interest is the fact that the two filmmaking brothers have actually found two older brothers -- Izak Sagi and Shep Shell, shown left and right, respectively, above) to become to subjects of their film. Each pair does the other more than justice.

Their story is so full of oddity and emotion, surprise and eventual understanding, that watching and listening as the documentary unfurls is both thought-provoking and revelatory. The various subjects this documentary explores -- by its very existence -- include identity, parenting, the importance of geography (locations range from Poland and Germany to Israel and Canada), what it means to be Jewish, and how important knowing one's history/genetic strain is (or maybe, as we learn while the end credits roll, is not).

The movie makes no judgments but simply lays out the timeline and series of events that take us from there to here, often with our mouth hanging open in wonderment of the decisions that were made and, finally, the reasons for making them.

Aida's Secrets is as much a mystery film as anything else, and that mystery encompasses not merely the facts of the matter at hand but also the secrets of the workings of the human mind and conscience. And, perhaps, what a parent might do to ensure the well-being of her offspring.

The documentary -- from Music Box Films, running 90 minutes and in mostly the English language, with a few English subtitles when Hebrew is heard on the soundtrack -- opens this Friday, October 27, here in South Florida in Miami Beach at the O Cinema, at Delray Beach at The Movies of Delray, in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theater and the Regal Shadowood, and in Lake Worth and The Movies of Lake Worth; and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Playhouse 7, Royal and Town Center theaters. To see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters, click here and then click on THEATERS and scroll down.

The photo of the filmmakers, 
second from top, is by Sonia Recchia 
and comes courtesy of Getty Images.

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