Many American films are obsessed with plot. Big-budget blockbusters use a rotating cast of easily inhabitable tropes. Characters quip at each other for flavor before proceeding to the next fight scene. Set a bad guy up, knock him down. Fifteen sequels, billions of dollars. But at this year’s 31st annual Boston Jewish Film Festival, the characters are setting the tone and driving the narrative.
Anatol Schuster’s “Ms. Stern” starts off with a long, lingering shot of the titular character, her white hair beautifully coiffed around her face, as she states that she wants to die. So begins the journey of a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who is determined to exit the world on her own terms. Played with incredible nuance by Ahuva Sommerfeld, Ms. Stern is a flirtatious, no-nonsense character with a penchant for smoking who remains imminently lovable even as she searches for a gun with which to end her life. The audience watches, rapt, as she shoulders through a Germany that can’t help but fold to accommodate her. The camera follows Ms. Stern at a distance, only moving closer when she allows it, and the story moves at the pace she sets. Her beloved granddaughter, her beautiful hairdresser and her worrisome daughter all frame her life, but the moments when she is alone color the film with rich melancholy. It’s a quiet, brilliant piece of art.
When we meet Eden, the heart of “Flawless,” she might as well be neon. She’s too tall, too new within her Jerusalem high school, and when an accidental impact with a classmate causes her silicone breast cup to fall out, too flat. Befriended by Tiggist (too black) and Keshet (too much character), Eden slowly integrates herself into her new school. But then she learns her friends plan to secretly travel to Ukraine to sell their kidneys for plastic surgery and money for prom dresses. She initially balks at the idea but realizes that in order to confirm her correct gender, desperate measures may have to be taken. Stav Strashko portrays Eden with quiet anxiety and is the first transgender actress to be nominated for Best Actress at the Ophir Awards. “Flawless” is a breathtaking trans narrative that examines prejudice, self-esteem and what it means to be a woman.
- Nov 7, 7:00 pmNov 9, 6:30 pmNov 9, 6:30 pmNov 10, 3:00 pmNov 12, 7:00 pmNov 14, 7:00 pmToday, 9:00 pm
In “My Polish Honeymoon,” young Parisian Jewish parents Adam and Anna leave their son with Anna’s parents in order to finally take their honeymoon. The catch? They’re traveling to commemorate the anniversary of when the Shoah gripped hold of Adam’s grandfather’s village. Initially, Anna is thrilled to learn about where her own grandparents came from but as it becomes obvious that her family history has been erased, she and Adam face romantic and personal tensions that threaten their relationship. This is a darkly funny examination of what happens when Jews come home, and when there is no home to return to.
Find more information on screenings here.