Freedom of Expression Award
San Francisco Jewish Film Festival
July 29, 2013, Castro Theater
Alan Berliner, this year’s Freedom of Expression Award recipient, is known for creating original, personal and highly inventive documentaries that utilize home movies, found footage and probing interviews. He has mined his family history, from his exotic and mysterious grandfather (Intimate Stranger, SFJFF 1992) to his pugnacious and endearing father (Nobody’s Business, SFJFF 2001). In this new film, the family subject is a bit more distant: his mother’s first cousin, Edwin Honig. Not only was he a mentor to the filmmaker but Honig was an accomplished poet, a literary critic, a noted translator who was knighted by the king of Spain and a professor at Brown University. For the past several years Honig has been living with Alzheimer’s, and Berliner has been chronicling his visits over many years to create a profound study of memory. Their conversations are filled with seemingly unwitting insights, compassion and a strong dose of humor yet the film doesn’t shy way from Honig’s failures, traumas and demons. Berliner’s playful, incisive and provocative style produce sublime moments, such as when he asks his cousin if there is anything he would like to tell the viewers, and Honig responds, “Remember how to forget . . . no more.” This master filmmaker’s latest gem is a must see.