I thought I was going to love Between Two Worlds, a project by husband-and-wife director team Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, with my passion for internal cultural debate televised for mass consumption. With my admiration for lay leaders who go from adored figureheads to reviled maniacs overnight, and back again. With my respect for questions that don’t have answers, for democracy and for students on campus who have it way tougher today.
And I did. I loved it. I loved seeing the spectrum of interviewees that were chosen to represent their organisations, congregations or themselves. I indulged in their intelligence, in the fervour with which they expressed themselves. A documentary has nothing if not an angle, and Kaufman and Snitow’s has over a dozen, all engaging, all worth grappling with. They clearly set out to create something valuable; the end result is a sorely needed conversation starter, driving home the question: Within one community, who determines what is appropriate for public debate? In this case, we’re talking about the global Jewish community, and the levels of division, censorship and heartache that the directors aim to address.
There are many layers to this film, and so much material to be mined that I’m intrigued as to why it starts off at a cruising pace. The controversial moment that ignited this project was a backlash at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in 2009, when organisers programmed the film Rachel about the life and activities of Rachel Corrie. Between Two Worlds offers repeated detail about the threat the programmers came under, but after about twenty minutes we are re-routed towards new and fascinating observations, with the filmmakers’ personal family stories shared as a metaphor for issues with which the Jewish community continues to grapple in public.
So, what can be categorised as a “Jewish” film?
“If it catalyses a conversation that can be had fruitfully, and intelligently, in a Jewish context, then it is worth showing”
- Peter Stein, Director of the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
Catch this one if you can.
Sunday, May 15th at 3:30 p.m. at the Al Green Theatre.
May 15th is the final day of the The Toronto Jewish Film Festival 2011. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit tjff.com.