My Father, My Lord

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It's easy to see why this award-winning film about the travails of an ultra-Orthodox Israeli family bears an undeniable stamp of authenticity: David Volach, its writer-director, was raised in such an environment -- he had 19 siblings -- until he began a process of secularization that eventually resulted in his studying film.

Although his impressionistic debut feature is somewhat lacking in terms of narrative, "My Father, My Lord" provides a vivid and deeply felt portrait of the generation struggle that can occur in such circumstances.

The brief film revolves around the growing conflict that occurs in the family headed by Rabbi Eidelman, whose strict adherence to the Torah is not easily understood by his questioning young son Menachem (Ilan Griff).

Spotting a loyal dog following his stricken master into an ambulance, Menachem asks his father if good animals go to heaven. "Animals have no souls" is the brusque reply. Other incidents, involving a dove that has nested on the family's windowsill and a photograph of African tribesmen, produce similarly dogmatic actions.

Although a tragic incident that occurs in the final minutes lends the proceedings a gratuitously melodramatic tinge, the film handles its all too relevant subject matter with real sensitivity and acute observation.

Adding greatly to the overall impact are the superb performances by Dayan, one of Israel's leading actors; Sharon Hacohen Bar, as Menachem's tender-hearted mother, and Griff, wonderfully natural as the questioning youth.
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