"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The story of two brothers – Menachem and Fred

Menachem and Fred, directed by Ofra Tevet and Ronit Kertsner, is a documentary of two brothers, spanning decades, 4 generations, different continents, a family that was ripped apart by the Holocaust and eventually re-united and even reconciled with the children of the Nazi perpetrator who was originally responsible for the family's tragedy.

Fred has lived the last 50 years in the USA and Menachem in Israel. This is the story of how they were separated from their parents and from each other, and how difficult it was for them to become reunited.

In the film, the past is interwoven with the present. Their past -- Kristallnacht 1938. The brothers were ages 9 and 6 when they were evicted from their home. Two years later, the family was deported to a concentration camp in southern France where they were imprisoned under terrible conditions by the Vichy government (which was collaborating with the Germans). Their parents were brave enough to separate from their sons and to send them away from the terrible conditions of the mud and diphtheria in the camp to a French children's orphanage not far away. Eventually, everyone in the camp, the adults and the remaining children, were sent to Auschwitz. The boys, however, hiding from the Nazis, were smuggled out of the orphanage and were eventually separated. After the war, Fred, the older, found Menachem and tried to convince him to go the States with him, but Menachem wanted to go to Palestine.

This is an epic family story. After decades of having been out of touch, the brothers re-establish contact. As grown men, they decide to embark on a journey together and return to Hoffenheim, the small German town, where they were born. We follow them on their journey, where we are witness to emotional moments. We meet their children -- they each have a daughter named for their mother -- but their children are very different.

Menachem and Fred write their memoirs together and publish a book that includes the last letters that they received from their parents, so many years ago. The book is eventually seen by the sons of the Nazi who had thrown the family out of its home on Kristallnacht in 1938. After some soul searching, they suggest translating and publishing the book in German, paying for the project, permitting their family name to be included and also offering to sponsor the family unification in Hoffenheim. As a result, the members of the families of both Fred and Menachem, their children and grandchildren, all come together in Germany to meet and interact in the same place that the destruction of the family began so many years before. What a miraculous closing of the circle!

This is the story of Manfred Mayer – who changed his name to Fred Rayme -- and Heinz Mayer – who Hebraized his name to Menachem Mayer. Fred tried to hide from his Jewish past in America. Menachem, on the other hand, says that on every Yom Ha'atzmaut, when he hangs the Israeli flag, he feels a strong belonging to the people of Israel, the country, and the shared history.

Menachem and Fred (90 minutes) is a documentary film of epic proportions that includes historical and dramatic tension. It is available from Go2Films.

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