October 21, 2017

Posted April 10, 2012 by D. K. Holm

It happens from time to time that adults learn that they were raised in the “wrong” faith. It happened to the late Christopher Hitchens, and also in more dramatic terms to the polish priest Father Romuald Waszkinel, who learned as an adult that his real name was Jacob Waszkinel and that to save his life his parents gave the child to a Catholic family in Poland, before themselves perishing in the Holocaust. In the twilight of his years, the priest seeks to gain Israeli citizenship and convert to Judaism, yet while still remaining a Catholic.

Filmmaker Ronit Kertsner ‘sdocumentary¬†Tornchronicles Waszkinel-Waszkinel’s attempts with a placid eye that allows some of the absurdities of biblical law and immigration policy to unfold in seemingly real time and with the same deflating and immobilizing affect. Waszkinel-Waszkinel seeks to live on a kibbutz, but its rabbi won’t allow him to practice Catholic ceremonies. Israeli and / or Jewish law won’t allow a Jewish person who has switched faiths to gain citizenship. In limbos legal, religious, and psychological, Waszkinel-Waszkinel is in a state of implacable stasis out of Beckett or Kafka.

Ronit Kertsner’s stance on these proceedings are perhaps¬†tooplacid. At times the viewer wishes that the filmmaker would make a declaration on the priest’s behalf. Or, interview a wider range of subjects to explore the intricacies of this peculiar situation. All too often there are long takes of Waszkinel-Waszkinel driving or being driven, preparing for a religious ceremony, or walking along somewhere, when a unique and provocative situation is demanding explication. Accorded much more screen time than, say, a 60 Minutes segment, Kertsner slightly flubs it, and you wish that the filmmaker had prevailed on more people to explore this odd situation.

Torn plays at the Northwest Film Center at 7 PM, Tuesday, April 17, 2012.