(director/writer: Arnon Goldfinger; cinematographers: Phillipe Belaiche/Talia Galon; editor: Tali Halter Shenkar; music: Yoni Rechter; cast: Arnon Goldfinger, Hannah Goldfinger, Edda Milz von Mildenstein, Harald Milz, Gertrude Kino, Tamar Tuchler, Michael Wildt; Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Arnon Goldfinger/Thomas Kufus; Sundance Selects; 2011-Israel-in Hebrew, English, German, with English subtitles when needed)

Since there’s no big payoff, the family drama documentary fizzles in the end.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Israeli documentarian Arnon Goldfinger’s (“The Komediant“) grandmother died at age 98. When he and his family rifled through her cluttered Tel Aviv apartment in search of valuables they oddly found a Nazi propaganda newspaper containing a 1934 article titled “A Nazi in Palestina,” with buddy-buddy pictures of the author, Baron von Mildenstein, accompanied by Goldfinger’s German Zionist grandparents, Gerda and Kurt Tuchler. Granny, along with her husband, emigrated from Berlin in the 1930s, but neither one bothered to learn to speak Hebrew and suspiciously her flat was filled with many German items, including a two-sided coin that has a Star of David on one side and a Nazi swastika on the other side.There were also letters from before and after the war that indicated both families continued a friendly correspondence. This is strange since Gerda’s mother died at Theresienstadt (a concentration camp referred to as a ghetto).

These found German articles led to discovering more family secrets and surprises, with the director’s mother Hannah in denial about any dark secrets about her mom.

Goldfinger travels with his reluctant mum to Berlin to meet with surviving relatives and to Wuppertal, Germany, where he meets von Mildenstein’s daughter, Edda, who is in denial about her father’s past war crimes. In Germany, since Goldfinger‘s treated friendly by his muted hosts he therefore stays mum about his researchinto Eichmann’s trial testimony, in which he found that von Mildenstein was pointed out as his predecessor under Goebbels in anti-Jewish propaganda campaigns. Back in Israel our helmer discovers some more upsetting facts about Gerda’s mother which he tries to follow-up on, but gets no concrete answers. Meanwhile his mum does not wish to look back at the past and retreats from her son’s investigation. The troubling question of possible Jewish collaboration comes up, but is never fully resolved.

It’s a troubling story of three generations who have different ideas on how to handle dark family secrets, as an impassive Goldfinger digs into photos, historical records and other relevant materials to share only what he wants with the viewer. Since there’s no big payoff, the family drama documentary fizzles in the end even though it brings up universal points of interest about families and about how elusive and damaging the truth can be to those who refuse to recognize it.

REVIEWED ON 11/28/2012 GRADE: B-    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/