Writer/director David Volach makes a surefooted debut

My Father My Lord

on July 11, 2008 by Wade Major

While the story of Abraham’s intended sacrifice of Isaac lies at the heart of all three monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—each reads a markedly different significance into the tale. For members of Israel’s ultra-orthodox Haredim, it emblemizes their ancient relationship with God, the vitality of maintaining continuity with His laws, obedience to His commandments and blind adherence to their community’s traditions. In My Father My Lord, first-time writer/director David Volach attempts to reconcile himself to a religious tradition which he abandoned while still in his 20s, yet still sees as possessed of a certain insular beauty. The result is a surefooted and frequently touching revisionist retelling of the Abrahamic narrative that, while hardly revolutionary, is certainly evocative and provocative enough to earn some respectable arthouse coin in advance of a healthier release on DVD.

The simple tale centers on a family of three—Rabbi Abraham Eidelman (Assi Dayan), his wife Esther (Sharon Hacohen) and their young son Menahem (Ilan Griff)—for whom piety and tradition provide both meaning and daily structure. Stern, but not unloving, Abraham seeks to teach his son at every opportunity, hoping to instill an appreciation for the natural world as a living testament to the truthfulness of God’s word. But Menahem’s curiosity and inquisitiveness, particularly with respect to other living things, is not so easily sated, creating a slow-simmering friction that breaks into the open in wholly unexpected ways during the family’s Dead Sea vacation.

At just 74 minutes, My Father My Lord runs just slightly longer than Charlie Chan in Egypt and about equal with Walt Disney’s Cinderella. In this case, however, brevity does not equal levity, as Volach makes the most of every second, finding a kind of purgatorial middle ground between poem and polemic that speaks to the very real crisis faced by any religiously orthodox adherents as they seek to reconcile faith and culture with reason and empirical experience.

Thematically, it’s not that far removed from Fiddler on the Roof, though it could be argued that by reducing the story to its most fundamental elements, minus the distraction of Hollywood and Broadway gloss, Volach makes his case more persuasively. That’s still unlikely to translate into anything but niche success, but as that seems to have been the target market all along, it’s hard to declare this anything but a resounding success.

Distributor: Kino International
Cast: Ilan Griff, Assi Dayan and Sharon Hacohen
Director/Screenwriter: David Volach
Producer: Eyal Shiray
Genre: Drama
Rating: Unrated.
Running time: 74 min.
Release date: July 11

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