Aida’s Secrets


Two brothers meet for the very first time.

(2016) Documentary (Music Box) Shep Shell, Izak Sagi, Aida Zasadsinska, Giora Sagi, Melanie Shell, Dr. Erik Somers, Alon Schwarz, Laurence Harris, Janice Rosen. Directed by Alon Schwarz and Shmaul Schwarz

 

The end of World War II found Europe in shambles. Millions of people were displaced, often their families scattered all over hell and gone. There are some parallels to the refugee crisis currently facing Europe and the Middle East.

Izak Sagi lived in Israel. As a young boy, he believed that his parents were his biological parents. When local kids taunt him by telling him that they are not, Izak confronts his parents who reluctantly admit that they aren’t. His biological mother is Aida, a beautiful blonde from Poland who now lived in Canada. Aida comes to visit and then returns several times afterwards. She is oddly reticent to tell Izak about his birth father whom she’ll only identify as a “good man.”

In 2013 when Izak is 67, he learns that he wasn’t an only child. It turns out that Aida had a son just ten months younger than Izak. His name is Shepsyl and he lives in Winnipeg (great choice!); he lived there with Aida’s ex-husband whom Shep (as he now calls himself) doesn’t have fond memories of – in fact, Greg had cut Shep completely out of his will when he died in 2008.

Izak is overjoyed to meet the brother he never knew he had; Shep is willing to meet but a little more cautious. Izak is a heart-on-his-sleeve kind of guy to begin with; Shep is a little bit more world-wary given his background. The two men have a joyful union at the Winnipeg Airport – I don’t know if “reunion” is the operative word since the two had been separated since Izak was three – but Izak is clearly over the moon and can’t stop calling Shep “brother.” It takes a little longer for Shep to warm up to Izak.

Still, the emotional reunions aren’t over yet. It turns out that Aida is still alive and at 89 years old living in a Montreal assisted living facility. Izak conducts Shep to the facility and for the first time in his memory, Shep has a mommy. He is hoping that Aida is happy to see him and she truly seems to be.

But there are some nagging questions and Aida isn’t very forthcoming about them. When asked directly, she claims she doesn’t remember or doesn’t wish to discuss the matter. Laurence Harris, the online genealogy researcher who helped Izak and his family find Shep, helps locate other relatives and friends of Aida who are equally vague. It seems that Aida has secrets that she’s not willing to part with, not even to set the hearts of her children to rest. However Laurence finds one more revelation that shocks both of the brothers.

Alon and Shmaul Schwarz are the nephews of Izak making their feature film debut and the story is so powerful and emotional that the somewhat prosaic style the brothers have in shooting the movie can be forgiving. I would have liked to have seen a more deft touch on the editing; it felt that certain scenes went on a bit too long, others felt rushed. At times that can be frustrating.

If you come to this film expecting every question to be answered neatly with a ribbon tied around it, you are going to be very disappointed. Aida died shortly after her first meeting with Shep – the film opens and concludes with footage from her funeral – and took with her to the grave the answers to many of the questions the two men really needed to know. Why did she seem to favor Izak over Shep? Why keep the brothers’ existence secret from each other but tell other family members who eventually spilled the beans? Who was the mysterious man in a photograph on a riverside beach that Aida identified as Izak’s father – but wasn’t her husband who appears in another photo on the same beach apparently taken on the same outing? Why did she and her husband divorce? Why was she so reluctant to talk about those events even though it would clearly ease the minds of her children to know these answers?

Some questions are never meant to be answered and the only people who can answer these questions are gone now. As frustrating as that is for the viewer, one can only imagine how frustrating it is for the two men who have to live the rest of their lives with those nagging questions hanging over their heads. However, they can take solace in knowing that their family circle has grown more than a little bit larger – and anyone will tell you that you can never have enough family love.

REASONS TO GO: The film is very powerful from an emotional standpoint. Izak and Shep are compelling subjects and very different men, understandably.
REASONS TO STAY: This feels very much like a missed opportunity.
FAMILY VALUES: The movie’s themes are pretty adult and there’s some mild profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The Bergen-Belsen Displaced Persons camp is now a military base and off-limits to the public.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/2/17: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: 82/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Sky and Ground
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
Jane

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New Releases for the Week of December 1, 2017


DAISY WINTERS

(Hannover House) Brooke Shields, Iwan Rheon, Paul Blackthorne, Carrie Preston, Sterling Jerins, Poorna Jagannathan, Clayton Rohner, Suzy Nakamura. Directed by Beth LaMure

An 11-year-old girl sees her close but unconventional bond with her mother broken. Somewhat cast adrift, she sets out to find her father and take on all comers as she approaches life with an eagerness for adventure and an unshakable belief in herself.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Regal Oviedo Marketplace, Regal Pointe Orlando

Rating: PG=13 (for mature thematic content including some drug material, brief strong language and some suggestive images)

Aida’s Secrets

(Music Box) Aida Zasadsinska, Shep Shell, Izak Sagi. This highly emotional documentary is about two brothers, one born in a concentration camp, both separated at birth. The search to find each other takes many years but this reunion carries with it an additional wallop as well.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: NR

Gangster Land

(Cinedigm) Sean Faris, Milo Gibson, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jason Patric. The rise of Al Capone is seen through the eyes of his right hand man “Machine Gun” Jack McGurn. The tale follows McGurn as he rises from prize fighter to hired muscle to hit man, culminating in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Gangster
Now Playing: AMC Universal Cineplex

Rating: NR

Jane

(Abramorama) Jane Goodall. This is the story of Jane Goodall, a naturalist who began working in an era where very little was known or understood about chimpanzees. She went out into the field into some dangerous parts of Africa to study her beloved chimps and became not only a tireless activist for the preservation of the species but a role model for women everywhere.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Enzian Theater (Saturday only)

Rating: NR

The Square

(Magnolia) Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West, Claes Bang, Terry Notary. A satirical drama about the role of egocentrism in our society particularly among the affluent, and the eroding role of community and moral courage in an increasingly uncertain world.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: R (for language, some strong sexual content and brief violence)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Firangi
Punyalan Private Limited
Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE:

The Divine Order
Firangi
God’s Own Country
I Remember You
Oro
Punyalan Private Limited
Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas
Ten Days Without Mom
Thelma

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG:

A Bad Idea Gone Wrong
Alien Invasion: S.U.M. 1
Firangi
Inoperable
Jawaan
Love Beats Rhymes
Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Firangi
Tad the Lost Explorer and the Secret of King Midas

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Aida’s Secrets
Gangster Land
Jane