Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Murder at Cinema North

I’ve had the privilege of screening a number of selections from the Israel Film Festival, which serves as a showcase for the best Israeli films each year. The 34rd Israel Film Festival takes place online this year from December 13th-27th, 2020.

Murder at Cinema North
Directed by Avida Livny
Ticket Information

The death of one person has an effect on a number of other people. In the case of an unnatural end where someone is responsible, that is even truer since the person who might be charged with a crime will have consequences, as will those within their circle and anyone who may have witnessed it. Such events don’t always receive an equal degree of publicity, but when they shake the foundation of a community and lead to a far more unexpected and complicated story, they have a tendency to be remembered and discussed for years to come.

In 1957, engineer Fidia Fiatelli is killed while standing in line to buy a ticket at the Cinema North. He is an unintended victim of Tommy Blitz, whose robbery attempt turns deadly and lands Blitz in jail after a substantial manhunt. Over the course of his imprisonment, much comes to light about Blitz, which includes his history as a Holocaust survivor and his bold decision to ask for the forgiveness of Fiatelli’s widow. An escape from prison and secrets surrounding his own mother’s actions during the Holocaust reveal a surprising chain of events that offer a window into who Blitz was and who he wanted to be.

This isn’t the kind of story I’ve seen explored in any other Israeli film, and it’s definitely intriguing to learn about all the layers that make it an unusual scenario. It begins with the jarring nature of the crime, one that didn’t involve terrorism or a vendetta against Jews or Israel’s existence. Instead, it was motivated simply by emotion and a desire for money, and resulted in a completely unexpected relationship between this accidental murderer and the Christian-born German woman who taught and practiced Buddhism whose husband he killed.

This is a documentary that doesn’t seem to have a set course, following every new revelation as it dramatically changes the perspective from which this situation should be viewed. There are numerous people who recount their experiences and the way in which they became involved, tangentially, with Blitz’s mother, Blitz, Fiatelli, or his widow. The web created by the unfortunate intersection of Blitz and Fiatelli’s paths is indeed fascinating, and this film can’t hope to find all of the answers it seeks since there is still so much about Blitz’s past and his mother’s identity that remain unknown. This film travels down a very winding road, one that should pull in most audiences even if it doesn’t necessarily take them somewhere definitive.


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