Becoming who we are
One of the best parts of Moos, which screens Nov. 10 as part of the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, is the friendship between Moos (Jip Smit) and Roel (Jim Deddes). (photo by Greetje Mulder)
Moos is a delightful and unpretentious film. The title character is a truly nice person, so busy taking care of others that, not only do her dreams fade into the background, but she does. When a close family friend toasts everyone at the Chanukah dinner table but forgets Moos, she drops her news – she’s going to audition for theatre school.
In this light and uplifting Dutch contribution to the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, which runs to Nov. 13, no one believes that Moos has the talent or confidence to pass the auditions and, well, she doesn’t, but her attempt starts her on a path of self-discovery and self-assertion. On their own personal journeys are Moos’ father, who must also become more independent and move through the loss of his wife, and Sam, a childhood friend of Moos who returns from 15 years in Israel for a visit and discovers that maybe he belongs in Amsterdam.
“I wanted to make a film about ordinary people in a world where beauty and appearance are everything,” writes director Job Gosschalk. “Not a glamorous romantic comedy but a film about two people who were not first in line when they were handing out good looks. There are enough stories about heroes. This would be a small story about daily troubles. I wanted to give the audience characters they could easily identify with.”
Sam, Moos and the other characters do seem like people viewers might actually know. And, while as predictable as most rom-coms, Moos has its own sense of humor and style. In addition to telling a good story, the film reinforces the importance of trying something (more than once) and of supporting (and being supported by) your family and friends – one of the best parts of the film is the friendship between Moos and Roel, who does get into theatre school. The value of tradition and ritual also play a large part in the film, which starts on Chanukah and features a bris and a bar mitzvah – for different boys. Moos is a really enjoyable hour and a half.
In the documentary realm, Mr. Gaga is a joy to watch if you’re a fan of contemporary dance. Full of excerpts from his masterful choreographic creations, the film also features many video clips of Ohad Naharin – as a boy dancing, as a young man trying out moves in his apartment, as a student, as a performer and as a teacher.
Naharin has been artistic director of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company since 1990 and is the founder of his own language of movement, Gaga. His brilliance is evident from his work and, while Mr. Gaga, oddly enough, doesn’t tell viewers much about Gaga, it does offer a meaningful introduction to Naharin, his career path, relationships, method of work, love of dance.
“Dance started in my life as long as I remember myself,” he says. But, when asked by a reporter why he dances, instead of simply saying, there is “no one clear answer,” as he does in the documentary, he makes up a fantastical story about a tragedy involving a fictional twin brother and a grandmother dying in a car accident. It would be an understatement to say that Naharin has an active imagination and the courage to use it.
Naharin only started formal dance training at 22, and he credits his late start as a reason for his success: “… I was a lot more connected to the animal that I am.” A dance teacher notes, “what he did was different.” It certainly was – and is. Mr. Gaga shows just how creative and exacting a person Naharin is, some of the challenges he has faced, the losses he has mourned, the temper he has tried to quell, and his efforts to become a better communicator and teacher. As we all are, Naharin is a work in progress.
Another documentary in the festival is a local community project: A Life Sung Yiddishly about singer Claire Klein Osipov, made by Haya Newman. For viewers unfamiliar with Osipov and her accomplished lifetime career performing Yiddish folksongs – for the most part with pianist and composer/arranger Wendy Bross Stuart – the film touches on some highlights and serves as an important video record.
For the full festival lineup, visit vjff.org.