JFilm opener has twists enough to hold interest
Things aren’t always as they seem in “Prima Primavera,” the opening night movie of the 2012 JFilm Festival.
The artful, sometimes comedic, film opens in a Jewish cemetery in Hungary. We meet Gabor, a middle-age, childlike man — son of Holocaust survivors from Serbia — visiting his father’s grave with his aging mother.
We get the immediate impression that Gabor cannot function alone. He seems preoccupied with drawing — insects, fruit, people and scenes from his past.
But that impression is blown sky high in the next scene when, while doing business in a bank, robbers burst in brandishing guns. Instead of cooperating, Gabor wrestles with the leader of the gang — a Dutchman — unmasking him in the process. Shots are fired and Gabor’s mother is dead.
Now the simple son has a problem, the Dutchman wants Gabor dead — he and a prostitute named Jolie, who drove the getaway car, but never bargained for all this.
Inexplicably, Jolie visits the sanatorium where Gabor is. A friendship develops. The two are only drawn closer when the head of the gang tries to run them down.
Now they must flee — back to Serbia where Gabor’s grandmother once ran an inn. (He doesn’t seem to understand she’s been dead for years, telling a police inspector after the botched robbery, “Mother didn’t die, she’s just gone to see Grandma.”) They hitchhike, sleep out in the woods and finally cross the border at an unguarded bridge (a good thing for Gabor since his passport expired in 1955).
On the trip, though, we see a new Gabor taking form. He is strong and confident — a resourceful man who can cook in the woods, drive an ATV and fight off a trucker who wants to sleep with Jolie. We start to wonder if Gabor is as childlike as he first appeared.
Safely across the border, they find the old inn Grandma once ran. It is a ramshackle ruin, but the couple finds friends and work in the village nearby. They become confidants, perhaps even lovers, despite how different they are (it’s up to us to decide).
But the Dutchman has not given up the hunt. Will they elude him, or will their new pastoral life in the green hills of Serbia blow up like the botched bank robbery?
“Prima Primavera” keeps the audience engaged, which is job one for any film. And while the plot sometimes falls down — Gabor seems not to understand early in the film that his mother died in the robbery attempt, then later says he recalls it — but it’s an award-winning movie that combines comedy, romance, drama and suspense. It’s well worth the price of a ticket.
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Also showing in week one of the festival:
“Deaf Jam” — The story of a deaf girl who is introduced to American Sign Language poetry in her high school and boldly enters the Spoken Word slam scene in New York City.
“Beyond the Boundaries” — Injured Israeli soldiers travel to Aspen where they share their personal stories with the Aspen community, and in return are taught to tackle the slopes to try to overcome the limitations their injuries have caused.
“Connected” — Director Tiffany Shlain shows what it means to be connected in the 21st century. From founding the Webby Awards to being a passionate advocate for the National Day of Unplugging, Shlain uses her love/hate relationship with technology as the springboard for a thrilling exploration of modern life … and our interconnected future.
“Mabul” — The story of a dysfunctional Israeli family whose life is shaken up when the family’s long-forgotten autistic son, Tomer, is unexpectedly sent home to live with them.
“I Shall Remember” — In a small seaside town in southern Russia in 1942, Vadik, a street-smart youngster, is angry when his family takes in a Jewish boy whose parents have been deported by the Nazis. But soon he learns what it means to be a real hero.
“Srugrim” — A groundbreaking, popular Israeli television series that follows the lives of a group of 30-something Modern Orthodox singles as they navigate their lives in contemporary Jerusalem.
“Nicky’s Family” — The story of Nicholas Winton, a young stockbroker, who saved the lives of 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia by bringing them across Hitler’s Germany to his native Britain. For nearly 50 years, Winton kept secret how he rescued these children.
“2 Night” — Two attractive young Israelis meet at a Tel Aviv bar and attempt to spend the night together in this breezy romantic comedy that could also be titled “A Guy, A Girl and No Parking Spot.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)