Sunday, January 17, 2016

Ben Zaken (2014) New York Jewish Film Festival 2016

This a portrait of a family centered around Shlomi Ben Zaken, a single father trying to make his way in the world. Ben lives with his daughter, his brother and mother. And they struggle to get by in a run down apartment complex in a small city in Israel.

Told is largely long takes, mostly framed so that we are close on one or two people in each the scene the film attempts to bring us deeply into the lives of the family and their daily struggles. The framing has an almost formal feel to the film with the result that it seems like its a mash up between an art film and a  slice of life film. The lives of the characters kind of bleed off the screen. There is a sense of real life for the characters.

But at the same time the formalness of the framing and the structure of the script creates a kind of distance that makes the film hard to love. While I can see and be engaged by the issues that the film is trying to explore, that of family and of life at the poverty line, I was never moved by them. To me the film was and is a hard one one to warm up to. Sitting and watching the film I found my mind wandered and I was interested in other things. While I wanted to see what happened at the same time I also wanted to work out my schedule for the week. I never truly gave myself over to the film.

This is very much a film you can admire more than like.

The film plays tomorrow and Wednesday. For tickets and more information go here.

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