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My Father My Lord - A David Volach Film

By Janet Walker

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The sixth annual Tribeca Film Festival hosted the international premiere of My Father My Lord, the first film by Israeli filmmaker David Volach, and winner of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival's Founder's Award. 

The Sixth Annual Tribeca Film Festival presents the International Premiere of My Father My Lord.

The film has played to press, industry, the general public and an additional screening was added by the festival programers to meet the requests. There was an overwhelming response to this film. The story of My Father My Lord revolves around a Haredic community Rabbi, played without compromise by Assi Dayan, the son of former Israeli leader Moshe Dayan, and his family, Esther, played beautifully by the Israeli actor Sharon Hcohen Bar and their son Meneham, played by Ilan Grif

Menehem, played by Ilan Grif, shows a natural curoisty with the sea as he looks for treasures.

Each of these actors have taken their roles and shown depth, range and courage. The entire cast consists of Israeli actors. They have remained true to their characters and true to the style, mannerism, needs and necessities of the Haredic community. The struggles associated with life in Israel are not seen as the film focuses only on the internal struggles of a separate life.

The film includes English subtitles and is spoken in Hebrew. It is beautifully made with an equally soul-capturing soundtrack. The Rabbi's pursuit of knowing God is universal for those who lead synagogues, or any faith house, and the struggle for balance usually falls on the side of the synagogue. The family becomes second or third after the first pursuit of knowing God, and the second pursuit of feeding the followers.

My Father My Lord Director, David Volach, Tribeca Film Festival's 2007 Founder's Award winner.

The film portrays a constant separateness as the family leads separate lives due to the laws of the religious community. There is the separation of the sexes, the secular and religious separation, the husband and his wife, Esther, sleep in separate beds. The son, Meneham, is separating from childhood, and the constant companionship of his mother, as he moves to adolescence.    After the tragedy, there is a separation into mourning; the separation of faith, the separation of the pursuit of God. They are a separate people and finally separated from God.

The Rabbi, Assi Dayan and Esther his wife, played by Sharon Hcohen Bar, sleep the way they spend their lives.

The director's use of prophesy is utilized in stressing God's demand of a sacrifice as a final proof of the followers love for God. The Rabbi would consider sacrifice a rightful passage from plain to mountaintop just as he sacrificed his relationship with wife and son.

The dialogue in the classroom scenes are of the Old Testament story of Abraham who was told by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. The study on the very day the family leaves for holiday is the study of Abraham.  The son, Menehem, was attempting to glue the sacrifice, the ram, into the picture and it fell to the ground. The sacrifice was not accepted.

The Rabbi looks to the Heavens from where his help comes as the sun shines.

The point where grief intersects with faith is the beginning point of struggle. The Rabbi is, as all who are deeply devoted to the pursuit of knowing God, faced with that point of no return. It is an on with God, who gives and who takes away, or it is over with God who gave and cruelly took. The Rabbi and his wife are both faced with the point that their grief intersects with their faith.

The final scene a symphony of sorrow, the mother lost, her world shattered, crescendos, at the synagogue. She slowly pushes the book of prayers, her faith, over the edge as she was pushed over the edge and as each book strikes the floor with force and finality until finally, all the books, everything, lay fallen around her. It was then her faith beaten husband is finally unable to see God and this is where the movie ends.

Esther sits alone.

This movie offers a glimpse of life within a closed community, a life rarely seen by the masses. It shows a universal sameness of emotions associated with all people: Grief, love, desire, passion, and stark differences in the world of the Haredic community and other orthodox communities. It is not an offensive movie. It brings, at least it brought me, back to a place where my grief intersected with my faith.

As I spoke with filmmakers from around the world, those who had seen had the film made similiar comments. It is a movie about faith, the challenges of faith, the hopes and distresses associated with faith. It is rare that a foreign, ultra religious based, Jewish, subtitled film is as captivating as this film. It is moving and memorable.

With no comparisons the last time a foreign film held this much promise was Ang Lee's, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Moreover, it has been since Barbara Streisand teamed up with Kris Kristopherson in A Star is Born that I saw an Esther, on screen, played as beautifully as Sharon Hcohen Bar portrayed her Esther.

This film is in limited release.  It is worth seeing.

Published on Dec 31, 1969

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