I am frequently asked if there is one film in the festival that shouldn’t be missed. Of course, I always put my strongest films in the opening, closing, and centerpiece slots. And I am naturally quite attached, for different reasons, to all 18 of the titles I select – culled from the 150 or so I watch each year.
But yes, there is one movie I have been recommending to anyone who asks, quite confident that audiences will succumb to its irresistible charms. “Neighbours,” a poignant memoir based on director Mano Khalil’s own childhood experience, has played in almost every Jewish film festival this past year, and it’s easy to see why.
But don’t just take my word for it.
Here’s how the New York Jewish Film Festival described the story:
“In Mano Khalil’s autobiographical “Neighbours,” six-year-old Sero (expressive newcomer Serhed Khalil) and his family live in a Kurdish community near the Syrian/Turkish border in the early 1980s. Sero is extremely fond of his neighbors, the last Jewish family in a village where Jews and Kurds once coexisted peacefully but where rising tensions have caused all the other Jews to flee. When he begins his first year of Arabic school, Sero is inundated with the fiery nationalism of a new teacher who demands that the Arabic language replace Kurdish in the home and propagates anti-Semitism to his impressionable charges…. Khalil mines childhood experiences with a welcome sense of humor, while drawing tragic parallels with the plight of contemporary Syria.”
The Jewish Film Review had this to say: “Mano Khalil’s film elicits superb performances from its professional and non-professional multilingual cast, some drawn from refugee camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. The quiet dignity of the villagers in the face of oppressive tyranny and corruption of Syrian government officials and Turkish border guards is deeply moving. Humor is skillfully mixed with pathos.”
The Forward declared: “Swiss-Kurdish director Mano Khalil’s “Neighbours” is a cinematically stunning, deeply unsettling film that is at once brutal and satiric, and at moments even magical.”
Consider this a personal recommendation, and don’t miss “Neighbours,” playing Thursday, November 10, at 6:30 pm in the Dairy Arts Center’s Gordon Gamm Theater.