When I first came up with idea for The Movie Picture Show, I made the decision not to post reviews concerning documentaries. I’ve seen a ton of these things and I find them to be quite enjoyable and entertaining, but aside from the fact that I don’t view them as “movies,” I don’t completely know why I never made a single attempt to review them. After I agreed to sit down with Arnon Goldfinger, the director for the documentary The Flat, I had a slight change of heart and decided to give it try at least once. If I liked the outcome, I’d probably review more of them.
Reviewing something like a documentary is a bit different from reviewing your usual movie. There’s no cast, there’s no acting involved and there’s no made up plot to increase the drama or entertainment value. The people, their emotions, their stories and what we see on-screen is real. That’s actually probably the other primary reason why I’ve avoided reviewing them so far. You just can’t critique it the same way you can everything else. Well, what do I critique in The Flat? Life.
I believe that most of us have secrets hidden in the past of our families. Whether they’re forgotten, hidden or purposely ignored, some of that stuff never comes back up until an investigating family member gets curious and starts snooping around for information. Now what we find will be different depending on your family’s background, your determination and a number of other things. Not only that, but what you find may also bring up some old memories that some people in the family might not want discovered.
Being a director, it seems only natural for Goldfinger to grab his camera and start shooting whenever he finds the opportunity. Well, after the passing of his grandmother, the director of many years does exactly that for about five straight years of his life. He first got this urge when he and his mother began to clean out his recently deceased grandmother’s “flat” (called an apartment for Americans). He chose to take this chance to understand the life of his grandmother a little more than he already did.
Before this, he probably knew his grandmother the same way many of us remember ours. She’s the sweet old lady who you and most of the family hold into high regard and she always gets respect because of it. Also like most of us, there are some things that he simply never had the chance to find out. She came from a different generation which had a different set of rules, so the chances of him being completely knowledgeable when it came down to the majority of her life and the age in which she grew up in would be extremely slim.
I’m sure he could anticipate hearing about some stories involving the Holocaust, World War II, Germany and the country Israel that he either didn’t live in or was just too young to remember, but I don’t believe that he knew there would have been a chance for him to run into some of the things that his grandparents kept away from even their closest friends and family members. Needless to say, this experience was an eye opener for the director who became interested in the lives of his grandparents.
When Arnon Goldfinger actually came to town and I was able to sit down with him for a brief interview that lasted for about a half an hour, I developed an understanding for just what he found out and how it influenced the lives of not only himself, but many people in his family. I believe he sees this vast five-year journey as something that allowed him to understand more about his grandparents and that impactful moments of history that helped to form the life that he calls his own.
When taking part in the sit down, I got a feeling that this documentary was something that opened the doors to certain things that he and his family could acknowledge and speak about in a manner that could be both potentially painful and emotionally securing for them. I say that in a sense that it would allow them to look at parts of their tragic family history while allowing them to heal and come to terms with much of what had been both ignored and unknown for generations.
The Flat reminds me of many of the reasons that I like watching documentaries. From a personal perspective, it’s always an opportunity to improve my knowledge of subjects throughout life, whether I know the something about the topic at hand or I don’t. As Goldfinger and his family manage to find out during this journey into their families past, there’s always room to learn and gain more knowledge. That knowledge can give you plenty to talk about and allows you to open your mind while broadening your horizons in the very same process.
After watching the documentary and having the opportunity to interview the man behind The Flat’s creation, I’m thankful that The Flat happened to fall into my lap. It assisted me in my further education of the worlds and cultures outside my own. Whether it’s through reading, watching films or having intelligent conversations with people who have different backgrounds and lifestyles than mine, I always take the chance to do that. It’s something that I believe we should all do whenever it is that we get the opportunity. If we all practiced this, maybe it might improve our relationships, how we view one another and how we treat each other.
I think that for the Goldfingers and for anyone else who experienced The Flat, there’s enough humanity and suspense to keep you intrigued and wanting to uncover more. When I look at this documentary and the man behind its creation, I hope it was worth all of the effort that was included, and I hope that he got at least most of the answers that he was looking for. But if you watch this documentary, you may come to the realization that he may have gotten more than he imagined he would when he first went into this project.
Director: Arnon Goldfinger Distributor: Sundance Selects Country: Israel