GEULA/REDEMPTION, Israel, 2018. Starring Moshe Folkenflick, Emily Granin. Directed by Yosse Madmoni, Boaz Yehonatan Yaacov. 100 minutes. No rating available.

Winner of the Ecumenical Award at the Film Festival at Karlovy Vary (Czech Republic) 2018. The citation, written by a jury of Catholics and Protestants, reads:

Geula is about a man who goes through the process of redemption and reconciliation while trying to save his ill daughter. The jury awards the film “for overcoming all kinds of narrow-mindedness to discover the healing beauty of openness and hope; for showing that God and humanity cannot be confined just to a set of rules and that one has to have a courage to be; and for its artistic quality where cinematography serves the story adding another dimension to the experience of the struggle it tells.”

A review. This is a very human and humane film. While it would have an impact for Israeli audiences, it has a universal appeal.

Menachem is a religious man, observing kosher regulations, food, reverently touching lintels, avoiding touch with women…. Working in a supermarket, tending his six-year-old daughter, Geula, who has what could be a terminal illness. Menachem is a widower. He is serious, with a look of sadness, but is immensely cheered by the vitality, despite her illness, of his daughter.

We discover that he had been lead singer in a band 15 years earlier with the influence of rock ‘n’ roll. However, he had given up the music, becoming religious (not specifically Orthodox nor Hasidic) and wanted to study but this did not work out. Realising that the medical procedures for Geula were becoming more costly, he has the idea to revive the band, going to visit each of the three former members, some enthusiasm from two but hesitation from one who is now is a successful businessman, restaurateur. However, Menachem is persuasive.

He also comes alive as he sings. The music has traditional tones but often draws on scriptural texts. The group play at weddings, are successful, and bookings come in. Audiences will be moved by the liveliness of the music, impressed by the wedding guests and their total involvement in the music and their intensity – but only the men, a partition separating the women at the wedding celebration, their being able to look in through a gap in the partition.

Geula is able to continue her treatment because of the income, remaining cheerful despite the procedures. One of the members of the band suggests that they do an audition to play in a club, finally persuasive – but his fiancee comes with an appeal to Menachem that he give up the idea, she hoping to become pregnant and build a family.

Menachem’s religious behaviour includes a great deal of God-language, continually thanking God for whatever happens, good or bad, trusting in a Providence. It contrasts with the more secular attitudes of some of his colleagues and the band. His religious outlook means that Menachem is a man of authenticity and integrity, guiding him and his decisions.

There are many attractive scenes of father and daughter, concern and care, love, hope.

JIFF, Jewish International Film Festival.  Screening through November

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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