Discovering dearness by making amend | Daily News


Film review

Discovering dearness by making amend

‘Kaddisch fur einen Freund’ (Kaddish for a friend) is a work of German cinema which brings a glimpse of how the enmity between Arabs and Jews can affect immigrant communities in countries far removed from the geography of the Middle East. Carrying its title in English as ‘Kaddish for a friend’ this heartwarming movie with a genre categorization as ‘tragicomedy’ was screened on the 17th of January at the Goethe Institute in Colombo.

Set in Berlin, Germany, the story revolves around the situation that arises after 14 year old Ali Messalam a Palestinian refugee gets himself involved with a group of juvenile delinquents of similar origins who commit an act of criminal trespass on the residence of an elderly Jewish man whose home they vandalise as an ‘token act’ of ‘retribution’ for the suffering they believe that has been caused to them by the people of Israel and the Jewish people in common.

Written and directed by Leo Khasin ‘Kaddish for a friend’ brings to life a story of how amity can arise from enmity in the most unexpected of ways. The themes that this film deals with include frustrations of immigrants in Europe, the generation gap, peer pressure, redemption and forgiveness.

Ali’s father is a working class immigrant Arab struggles financially to keep his family of four children (which turns five) going in Germany while being on a temporary visa. Ali tries to win acceptance of his cousin’s gang of friends who are in fact miscreants who are noted by the local police for their transgressions with the law. The gang decides to vandalise the apartment of an elderly Jewish gentleman who lives on the floor above Ali’s family’s apartment and Ali finds himself reluctantly drawn into the act of lawbreaking simply to win acceptance form peers.

Unexpected to them, the 84 year old owner of the apartment, Alexander Zamskoy arrives home earlier than anticipated by the juvenile delinquents and the boys make a run for it, but Ali is recognized by Alexander who grabs Ali by the foot as he tries to flee. Alexander’s grip on Ali’s shoe results in the shoe coming off and being produced as evidence to the police after the break in is reported.

On Ali’s mother’s insistence the two of them go up to meet Alexander and make a genuine attempt to make amends. Ali promises to put Alexander’s place back in order and appeals to him to drop the chargers since if Ali is found guilty in court he and his family will be deported. Although reluctant initially Alexander allows Ali the chance to make good on his word and try to earn his ‘redemption’. What ensues is a quirky and heartwarming journey of how Ali and Alexander, who are generations apart and divided by cultural and religious enmity, find in each other kindred souls whom they can relate to and connect with dearness. Ali has a difficult time connecting with his father and lacks paternal warmth and understanding in his life when he is in need of guidance and advice. His artistic skills and aspirations are completely dismissed and rejected by his father, but Alexander appreciates the boy’s talent in drawing. They gradually discover in each other the factors that have pained their lives with silent sorrow.

At his wife’s grave he speaks to her of Ali and how through the crime that was done to him something good actually seems to have come out of it. The presence of Ali in his lonely life gives Alexander much meaning and something to look forward to.

Alexander who is respected in the elderly Jewish community in the town is shown solidarity by his people who offer him financial support to redesign his apartment. But they insist that he must not allow the Arab boy to step into his place again and that he must pursue justice by ensuring that he will do his utmost to make Ali guilty in court and face the legal penalties under the law.

When he approaches the state prosecutor to convince him to drop the charges he finds the authorities are not willing to comply and insist the court hearings must proceed. At the point Alexander is called to give evidence in court he denies having clear recollection of Ali being there and feigns uncertainty over what he has made as previous statements to identify Ali as one of the culprits. Resisting the court’s insistence that he speaks truthfully, Alexander has an outburst in court claiming that deporting Ali for a mistake for which the boys has made amends is not justice. In his state of anxiety Alexander’s health takes a turn for the worst and he collapses. While Alexander is in hospital Ali visits his elderly friend and keeps him company though Alexander is not fully conscious. When he awakes he confuses Ali with his own son and asks for his son. Ali is sentenced to do community service at an elder’s home as penalty for his crime and is not deported. Alexander soon passes away and at his funeral Ali steps forward to say the Jewish prayer known as ‘Kaddish’ for the departed. A prayer, which as per Jewish customs, should be recited by a son of the deceased.

A heartwarming story ‘Kaddisch fur einen Freund’ will surely speak deeply to anyone who believes in the beauty and dearness of family bonds across generations and the discovery of kindred closeness in most unexpected circumstances along the journey of life.

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