A Glimpse of the Films at the Ashkenaz Festival

Posted in Festival Coverage, Film Festivals, Movies by - August 30, 2018
A Glimpse of the Films at the Ashkenaz Festival

The Ashkenaz Festival is a week long celebration of the cultural output of the Ashkenazi Jewish people. Said output includes music, art, and of course, film that they’re showing at Toronto’s Harbourfront. Some of the films are obscure classics but let’s look at the new ones, shall we?

Time obscures most achievements, and we can say the same about the ones Michal Waszynski made. He was a film director who was at his most prolific in his home country of Poland. Between the world wars he would mostly specialize in romantic dramas.

Elwira Niewiera and Piotr Rosolowski’s The Prince and the Dybbuk is a documentary about Waszynski. It has a very difficult task, and that is to make its audiences remember a person that time forgot. It mostly does this through the people who still remember him dearly.

The film painstakingly traces his origins from Kovel in the Ukraine. There, the filmmakers ask older members of his community if his picture can jog anyone’s memory. It even shows that town’s churches, making its audience ask why would Waszynski leave this place. And it answers that question in a haunting way.

The fest is also showing two short films. One is Dean Gold’s Shehita, about a worldly kosher inspector, Akiva (Avi Hoffman). Here he has plans of what to do with cows that have a supernatural disease. However, a conservative rabbi gets on his way. It would have been nice to see it go full horror. However, the chamber drama we got instead was compelling enough.

Paulina Fiejdasz’s Narishkayt: Yiddish Life in Krakow is a bit better. It’s a longer installment of a video series that talks to its creators. They’re Eli Batalion and Jamie Elman, who’s had guests like Mayim Bialik and Howie Mandel in their shorts. They take their comedy act to Krakow, the home of the Yiddish language. It whitewashes that city a bit, instead making Jamie discuss an awkward encounter with a Romanian. But it’s still as smart as comedy docs can be.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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