Directed by Deniz Demirer and Daniel Kremer
Starring Deniz Demirer, Daniel Kremer, Rob Nilsson, Kris Caltagirone
Indie Film Review by Jack Bottomley
“What is your fight”? This is one question posed at a pivotal point in writers/directors Deniz Demirer and Daniel Kremer’s film Ezer Kenegdo, a movie that tackles many heavy ideas and fiery matters beneath a documentary-style approach. Opening with a Talmud Bavli quote, it is clear from the offset that this is a work deeply rooted in the faith it presents, the film feels personal and heartfelt and, as such, is a difficult picture to review. For many viewers so much will ring true: the presentation of the culture, the conflicts stemming from the historical and the contemporary and the devastating personal toll that comes with finding/accepting your identity. However, many other onlookers may well be left a touch confused by a film that has no real answers, as it is really more concerned with posing the questions than resolving them.
The film stars Daniel Kremer as Yisroel “Izzy” Jonigkeyt, a Chassidic Jew that travels to meet his Polish friend Marek Wisniewski (Deniz Demirer) in San Francisco, in order to travel to meet artist Harry Kierk (Rob Nilsson) for an interview, as the artist is about to destroy all his life’s work. But tensions between these friends begin to form, as the two’s journey to discover why Harry is doing this, soon becomes a journey of seeking what and whom they are? As previously stated, this is a personal work that challenges historical events and modern day turmoils, as it shows how simmering tensions can fuel cultural division...even amongst friends.
The pace is very slow, with the 1 hour and a half running length feeling almost double that, as the film methodically - with its echoing Jewish soundtrack and the guerrilla style camerawork at points - casting an eye on Jewish tradition before feeling to become a fly-on-the-wall-esque realistic insight into two friends becoming opposed by their teachings. Throughout production the ending was apparently changed multiple times and the style was a challenge to bring to the screen slickly and indeed, there is much confusion at points, as the film jumps around structurally and a few edits leave you momentarily lost as to what point you are at in time. Also, Ezer Kenegdo’s personal nature does occasionally leave the viewer feeling intrusive as opposed to involved but when Demirer and Kremer come to finally allow their characters tensions to fizz over, the film becomes clearer and more focused. In fact, thematically, the movie conjures some very compelling arguments that are hugely relevant to the modern day climate and which also harness past historical injustices and show how they still reverberate throughout cultures, families and friends all these years on. Horrific history truly lingers the most strongly.
The characters feel believable, with Kremer and Demirer being the best of the bunch and capturing these two friends and their inner worries, confusion and conflict. While Rob Nilsson is also impactful as Harry and Kris Caltagirone is effective - if infuriating - as Marek’s cousin. Perhaps another viewer will uncover even more depths from this piece of work than I did and even now, after watching it, I am certain there is more to find out about these characters, these filmmakers and these themes.
Ezer Kenegdo is not a film to all tastes but it is an interestingly made feature about some very heavy and uneasily answered debates.
Watch the official movie trailer for Ezer Kenegdo below...