The Flat: Tribeca Review

Engrossing doc finds buried bonds between an Israeli family and an important Nazi.

When director Arnon Goldfinger's grandmother passes away, he's tasked with clearing out the Tel Aviv flat that she and her husband shared for decades since immigrating from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.

NEW YORK — An astonishing trip into buried history and the human capacity for self-delusion, The Flat follows filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger as he stumbles across a remarkable bit of history and slowly becomes a part of its thorny psychological terrain. Prospects at the arthouse are strong, assuming marketers can convey what an unusual take on the Holocaust is being offered here.

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When his grandmother dies, Goldfinger is the only relative with much interest in the ancient ephemera piled up in her Tel Aviv apartment -- which, since his grandparents held on to their German identity for decades after their pre-WWII emigration, is so full of German culture it feels like "Berlin in Tel Aviv."
In the clutter he finds newspapers that appear to be Nazi propaganda, all revolving around one man's "Nazi travelogues." In them, a pro-Zionist Nazi named Leopold von Mildenstein travels the world, including a stint in Palestine; bizarrely, the articles are accompanied by a commemorative coin featuring a swastika on one side and a Star of David on the other. Shockingly, Goldfinger learns that both his grandparents accompanied Mildenstein on these trips.
Realizing that no one else in his family has any knowledge of this -- Goldfinger's mother doesn't even know, as he soon learns, that her grandmother was killed in a concentration camp -- the filmmaker travels to Berlin to meet Mildenstein's daughter Edda, who greets him warmly and reveals that his grandparents were actually close friends with the family, traveling together and becoming close again after the war ended.
From here, the film's detective work -- both in terms of historical documents and the memories of surviving family members -- should be left for viewers to discover, but suffice to say that Goldfinger is forced to decide for others what they should know about their own loved ones. The answers don't come easily, but on camera the director remains an impassive presence, courteous but surprisingly unanimated -- refusing to make himself the center of this drama, which rightly belongs to the vaporous connections between one generation and the next.
Venue: Tribeca Film Festival, World Documentary Competition
Production Company: Zero One Film
Director-Screenwriter: Arnon Goldfinger
Producers: Arnon Goldfinger, Thomas Kufus
Directors of photography: Philippe Bellaiche, Talia Galon
Music: Yoni Rechter
Editor: Tali Halter Shenkar
Sales: Ruth Diskin Films
No rating, 97 minutes