it dates back centuries, the modern State of Israel has only been recognized
internationally for the last sixty-four plus years. Yet, Israelis are justifiably proud of their relatively
short history. That is one reason why
the Photohouse in Tel Aviv became such an institution selling prints of Rudi
Weissenstein’s photos documenting the country’s founding era. However, Weissenstein’s ninety-six year old
widow Miriam and her superhumanly indulgent grandson will have a fight on their
hands to carry on in their current location.
Tamar Tal documents their efforts as well as their complicated
relationship in Life in Stills (trailer here), which screens during
the 2013 New York Jewish Film Festival, co-presented by the Jewish Museum and
the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
has to admire Weissenstein’s approach to customer service. To her, a potential patron is just another “pain
in the ass.” That clearly frustrates her
grandson Ben, the family diplomat and business manager. While their bond is strong, there are
tensions between them, stemming from some painful family history. When Ben was a just boy, his father killed
his mother and then committed suicide.
The young man always grieved both his parents, but Weissenstein’s bitter
words directed at his father makes that difficult.
Weissenstein’s photos are both aesthetically pleasing and historically
significant. He had an eye and happened
to be present at landmark events, including the signing of Israel’s Declaration
of Independence. Unfortunately, it seems
the Mayor of Tel Aviv is determined to force out Photohouse for the sake of a
large development. Grandmother and
grandson will not leave without a fight though, launching petition campaigns
and accepting high profile invitations to exhibit Weissenstein’s work
abroad. Actually, Miriam Weissenstein
needed a bit of convincing on the latter.
Poor Ben is a real trooper alright.
Stills tellingly illustrates
the tolerance Tel Aviv is so well known for, both in Weissenstein’s acceptance
of her grandson’s private life and Tal’s conscious decision not to make too big
a deal of it. Yet, given the power of
Rudi Weissenstein’s images, viewers might feel shortchanged by the somewhat
limited coverage of his career in the film. Nonetheless, those who appreciate photography
as a form of art and a means of recording history will find the many stills
illustrating Tal’s documentary quite fascinating.
Sadly Miriam Weissenstein passed away several
months after Stills’ premiere, but
Tal’s film should further codify her husband’s international reputation. Recommended for photography buffs and Israeli
cinema patrons, the hour-long Life in
Still screens twice with Let’s Dance
this Thursday (1/24) as the 2013 NYJFF continues at the Walter Reade Theater.
Labels: Documentary, Israeli Cinema, NYJFF'13, Rudi Weissenstein