To prepare you for 21st year of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, completely virtual-for-the-first time as you’ve never seen before, we bring you 21 previews spotlighting the breath of films offered for your home viewing. The films, which represent more than half of those in the AJFF lineup Feb. 17-28, include classics, intimate family dramas, upbeat comedy and historic documentaries. Sit back and relax as the AJFF brings us together through film.
This satirical take on rising anti-Semitism in Berlin schools is a razor-sharp commentary about Germany’s post-World War II second and third generations navigating the choppy waters among Germans, Jews and “others.”
Max, a Jewish student, is harassed by classmates, then taunted to defend himself. The ensuing fisticuffs lead Max to injure both an Iranian student, Reza, and Karim, a Palestinian student. The boys’ completely clueless teacher arranges a conference with the distraught parents, the “headteacher” (essentially an assistant principal), a caretaker ironically named Eichmann, and Frau Nüssen-Winkelmann, the local district authority sent to sort things out.
As flashbacks reveal specific disruptive incidents in the teacher’s classroom, the school hallways, and in the schoolyard, it seems neither is anybody totally wrong nor completely in the right. The trouble that fermented and then escalated among the ninth graders is replicated among the parents, only a couple of which initially show up for the meeting.
While the school inspector desperately attempts to keep order and find a resolution to the unhappy confrontation, going haywire seems to be the law of the land, as emotions, deep-seated resentments and assumed stereotypes dominate the discussions. Max’s parents, his dad born Jewish, his mother a convert, feel very German and not at all like outsiders, while Reza’s mom, who emigrated from Iran, attempts to establish a connection with them by pointedly assuming they must feel just as she does, an interloper.
The superb, tightly written script delivers the punch of reality, … we feel present as the action unfolds. Filled with gravity and irony, yet with light touches, the stellar acting throughout by both the tempestuous adults and squabbling teens make the film remarkably authentic, each character perfect in his or her role, in this crisis of biases and less-than-kosher remedies.