Souvenirs (2006)

The documentary film, Souvenirs (2006) had its Canadian premiere at the Bloor Theatre in Toronto tonight. Directed by Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat, Souvenirs received a Best Documentary Award at the 2006 Doc Aviv Festival.

37 year-old Shahar Cohen went to film school for 5 years. Two years ago he was unemployed, living in Jerusalem and wanted to make a film. The subject? His 82-year-old father, Sleiman. He served in World War II with the Jewish Brigade.

The angle? His father had a few girlfriends in Holland and it’s possible that he might have left behind some “souvenirs” — children by two Dutch women.

So, father and son go on a road trip through Europe in search of lost lovers and siblings. What transpires is a charming and funny adventure where Sleiman and Sharar get to know each other better. The film also explores the role of the Jewish Brigade in the British army during the war.

I enjoyed Souvenirs a lot. Sleiman and his son aren’t very close but by the end of the film they make a connection that strengthen’s their relationship. You also gain some insight into life during the war through Sleiman’s many stories. And of course there are a few surprises along the way as Sharar tries to find out if he has any brothers or sisters from his father’s Dutch girlfriends.

Shahar Cohen was on-hand for a Q&A after the film. I was surprised to find out that he had written a script for his documentary film! The script was completed before filming but only used as an outline for how Shahar wanted the film to unfold.

At times Shahar and his co-director Halil Efrat “manipulated” Sleiman by getting him worked up to make a few scenes more dramatic. They also filmed a lot of interviews of Jewish Brigade members to trick Sleiman into thinking that the film was about the Brigade and not focusing solely on him.

I’m sure that their are some documentary purists that would frown upon these Michael Moore-like tactics but it does make for a more interesting film. ***

Films are rated from 1 to 4 stars.

Posted in Movie Reviews at 11:44 PM