My favorite documentary genre is "personal documentary" and Photonovela by Chen Shelach stands up to my expectations! This is no dry documentary -- it is a personal story filled with skeletons in the closet.
Chen Shelach grew up on Kibbutz Mizrah and this is a compelling personal documentary about the story of his family.
Shelach's 12-year-old daughter, Shir, is doing a family roots project for school, but she's more interested in "telenovelas" (hebrew for soap operas). Little does she know that her father is hiding his own story from her and that a soap opera could be produced based on the story of his family.
When he approaches his mother to talk about the story, she tells him, "The best is to live in the present." She came as a Holocaust refugee to the kibbutz where she has lived her entire life. Here everything is like a pressure cooker -- everyone knows everyone's business. No wonder she prefers to dwell in the present.
The film asks the question -- is it better to tell children everything or to protect them by keeping secrets from them?
Shelach's family seems to be a normal family - he and his wife and their 3 children -- living on the kibbutz. Slowly the dramatic story unfolds. This is the stuff that soaps are made of. While researching her family's past, Shir learns about the kibbutz, the Holocaust, romance, and scandal -- up close and personal!
Photonovela (documentary, 52 minutes, 2013) is available from Go2Films.