Pretty pictures, but not much bringing them to life.
DIRECTED BY TAMAR TAL (Israel, International Spectrum)
Saturday, April 28, 9:30 p.m.
Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)
Monday, April 30, 4:15 p.m.
Cumberland 3 (159 Cumberland Street)
Saturday, May 5, 1:15 p.m.
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)
Home movies are wonderful things to have—full of warmth and personal history, the shape of your memories. A good documentary requires a great deal more though: context and insight and a larger perspective, an ability to speak to people beyond the ones who shared the experiences you’ve recorded.
Life in Stills is a beautiful home movie: it captures the relationship between a man and his grandmother, the shop they run together, and the struggles that they face with a great deal of tenderness. But it is nowhere close to being a good film, if by that we mean something with wider resonance.
Ben and Miriam Weissenstein, separated by both a generation and a tragedy, bridge those divides to jointly run a photo gallery, the oldest in Israel. Founded in 1940 by Miriam and her now-deceased husband Rudi, it includes over one million archival images (Rudi was the official photographer at the signing of Israel’s Declaration of Independence). Depite this rich vein of material, the filmmaker delves neither into the personalities nor into the history enough to create a bond with the audience, and we’re left feeling frustratingly at arm’s length. There’s a story here, to be sure, but it hasn’t made it onto the screen.