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Screening stories about Israel

'The Flat'

Eric Goldman writes and teaches about Jewish cinema. He is president of Ergo Media, a distributor of Jewish, Yiddish and Israeli film.

In the aftermath of his grandmother’s death, the exceptionally talented third generation Israeli documentary filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger enters her apartment and begins looking for answers to questions he never bothered asking. Once in her flat, he goes on his own personal mission to uncover a past that he believes now lost and he tackles the task with the zealous fervor of a detective seeking to solve a mystery.

In “The Flat,” he tries to put his grandparents’ past, about which he knew nothing, into some historical context. As Goldfinger, his mother, and his siblings go through an apartment filled with European furniture, drawers of old jewelry, volumes of photo albums, and shelves of porcelain collectables, he realizes how little he knows of his family’s German past and how little anyone, including him, seemed to care. As the filmmaker, caught on camera by his cameraperson, begins his review of letters and documents in the flat, the sleuth within him seizes on every new find as he delves with passion into a past with which he now finally connects, although by now it may be too late. Nobody remains alive to answer his many queries, though an elderly friend of his grandmother does provide some background, so he must find the answers on his own. The artifacts in the apartment are all that remain and he hopes to gain a clearer picture through them.

In the course of his search, he finds newspapers reporting the visit to Palestine his grandparents made during the 1930s, accompanied by someone who seems to be a top Nazi party member and his wife. As he learns more, it only gets more mysterious. Stranger still are the memorabilia uncovered of his grandparents’ many postwar vacations back to Germany. How could they have been the same people who, stripped of all rights as Jews in Berlin, had emigrated to Palestine before the war began?

Read the full review, originally published on October 19, 2012, at http://bit.ly/jsflat

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