Israeli Powerhouse Film “The Flat” Debuts in America
This past Friday, the Israeli film, “The Flat” (or HaDira in Hebrew), made its American debut at New York City’s IFC Center. The film, a documentary directed by Arnon Goldfinger, was originally released in Israel in 2011 to rave reviews, and has garnered a number of awards internationally, including the Israeli Ophir award for best documentary, the German Arthouse Cinema Guild Award for best documentary, and best editing for a documentary at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
The story behind “The Flat” is a compelling one. After the death of his grandmother, Gerda, at the age of 98, Goldfinger set out to shoot a simple film documenting the emptying out of her apartment. Although in a Bauhaus building in the center of Tel-Aviv, Gerda’s third-floor flat looked as if it had been transported with her to Israel from 1930’s Berlin. As Goldfinger describes it, “For 70 years, she lived here as if she’d never left Germany”. She never learned to speak Hebrew, conversing only English with her grandson. When he would come to visit her as a boy, she served him apfel strudel and Swiss chocolate, like in a European café.
After her death, as Goldfinger, his mother and siblings began clearing out her belongings, they came upon various objects, pictures, documents and letters no one had ever seen before, which suggested that his grandparents had a much more troubled past than they had ever revealed to anyone. Some of their findings included Nazi propaganda, pictures of them travelling with a Nazi, and personal correspondences with a former Nazi officer named Von Mildenstein, who, according to the film, “Eichmann considered as his boss”. Goldfinger and his mother travel to Germany to meet Von Mildenstein’s daughter, and attempt to discover the nature of his relationship with Gerda and her husband, Kurt.
Thus, the film, which was intended to be a personal homage to a beloved grandparent, evolved into an international mystery/adventure, stretching across national lines, revealing unknown national interests and unearthing family emotions that were buried for decades. As they uncover the truth, they are forced to reconcile complicated feelings about a person they loved for years, but realized they never really knew.
Since debuting in Israel to unanimous acclaim, “The Flat” has been a fixture at film festivals around the world. Respected documentarians like Michael Moore have lauded the film as “one of the best movies of the year. It plays like a great mystery – and it is. This is what a documentary should be – smart, moving, profound and unpredictable”. At the Traverse City International Film festival, they jury voted “to give a special jury prize to a film that revisits the holocaust in a simple, intimate family story…This sophisticated documentary makes us ponder the complexity of human relationships and the desire for closure, and does so with honesty and an ambivalence that avoids easy answers.” Even German reviewers have called the film “radical, honest…a sheer marvel” (Frankfurter Rundschau).
Playing in select cities, “The Flat” is an important film that offers insight into human nature and a powerful argument against anyone who would publicly deny the Holocaust.
About the Author: Rea Bochner is a professional writer who has written for dozens of web and print publications, including Chabad.org and Aish.com. When not crafting copy on her laptop, Rea is a full-time mother, laundrywoman, chef, chauffeur, art director, housekeeper and referee. She lives in Cherry Hill, NJ with her husband and two sons. See more of Rea's work by visiting www.writtenbyrea.com