Reviewed for Shockya.com & BigAppleReviews.net, linked from Rotten Tomatoes by Harvey Karten
Director: Oren Gerner
Screenwriter: Oren Gerner
Cast: Meir Gerner, Maya Gerner, Oren Gerner, Joseph Quartzy
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 3/26/22
Opens: April 29, 2022
Since the film shows only home-movie moments of Africa, the title may make you think that Oren Gerner’s film, a love letter to his father Meir, is about that continent. You could make a case for Gerners’ calling his movie “The Lion in Winter,” the title character being a larger-than-life sixty-eight-year-old man in the declining years of his life. Though the film is shot in Israel, there is little indication of the location. Perhaps the Gerners, Meir and his wife Maya, are living in a settlement community, given that residents are on nightly patrol duty to guard against encroachments by those who believe the Jews do not belong there. The rats that Meir often complains about and the beautiful German Shepherd Tsila that follows the family around like their shadow, are a far cry from the rhinos (not fake Republicans) and elephants that make brief appearances in the home movies.
If you want to know what the film is about, follow a song by a choir of residents who take communal song festivals and community dances seriously. Take the words of one of the songs: “The small details of life, the joys of another day; this ordinary day full of grace.” As we grow older, beyond the stages of teen horsing around and young couples raising families, we are likely, like Meir, to look upon each day as though it could be our last. For the Gerners, that does not mean escaping like Americans to Hawaii and parts beyond as though travel is life’s highlights, but more likely a joyful day would find retired people like Meir working on their hobbies, just as Meir spends his day sawing at his carpentry shop—making beds for two of his family members rather than buying them at Ikea.
The documentary comes from Oren’s heart, the writer-director barely showing up for a cameo but winningly presenting a full-length birthday-anniversary-glad you are here tribute to his sometimes bad-tempered dad and to Meir’s wife Maya. Maya serves as the community psychotherapist, which equips her to handle Meir’s occasional rages, which in one alarming scene finds him slapping a teen at an outdoor party that is playing music too loud.
Many of us hear the word “Israel” and immediately think of that country’s problems with the Palestinians, but “though Hebrew is spoken throughout, the subject matter including all the songs of the community choir are strictly secular. Oren Gerner previously contributed “Greenland,” a seventeen-minute look at the film maker’s packing up from his parents’ apartment and moving in with his girlfriend. He would appear on track, should he so decide, to provide us with a series of Netflix episodes that would concentrate on “the small details of an ordinary day.”
In Hebrew with English subtitles.
81 minutes. © 2022 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+