There’s never a more heartbreaking moment in a young man’s life than the day he discovers that his heroes are not quite who he believed them to be. Everyone has their flaws, sure; that`s just part of being human. But that moment of gut-wrenching disappointment when you see someone for who they really are is one of the toughest parts of growing up. For young Benjamin, however, learning that his greatest hero is not everything he thought he was tears about not only his aspirations, but also his faith in God.
When his father leaves Benjamin and his mother for a younger woman, he departs with one piece of advice; “never forget that you are Jewish”. Benjamin, under the belief that Superman is Jewish too, assumes in his innocent ideology that Judaism is some kind of super power. Hebrew is akin to the Kryptonian language, and each of his family members is a hero; his busybody aunt is a fortune teller for always predicting the future, Grandpa is a “magnetizer” for being able to control his crazy hair, and uncle Yves has super strength.
His life changes completely, however, when he notices that his “little birdie” is different from the other boys`. As his classmates begin to persecute him due to the ignorance of their parents, he decides to hide his heritage, and quickly makes friends with a Portuguese Arabic boy named Mohammed who acts as his protection and secret keeper.
As he enters secondary school, life becomes much easier for Ben; nobody but Mohammed knows who he really is, and things are great until he falls in love with Yasmine, scared to ask her out lest she discovers his genital “disability”.
Benjamin soon realizes, however, that Yasmine doesn`t care whether or not he is Jewish, and begins to see his family for who they really are; mere yarn-spinners. He connects more with his Catholic mother than his Hebrew ancestry, and eventually confronts his father about denouncing his faith.
Beautifully shot in an almost fairytale aura, somehow reminiscent of Amelie, Superman isn`t Jewish is a heartfelt and touching autobiography of a man whose life has been controlled by a religion in which he has no faith.
Kolia Abiteboul`s performance as young Ben is heartbreaking in its innocence and sincerity. Such a complex performance from such a young actor is highly commendable, and Kolia certainly has a grand career ahead of him. Ivan Cori, meanwhile, as his adult counterpart, delivers a beautiful and hilarious narration.
A true exploration of faith and family, Superman Isn`t Jewish explore the importance of blood over heritage and the real essence of religion in the modern world. Powerful, heartfelt and laugh out loud funny, this certainly one of the highlights of this year`s Jewish film festival.
5 / 5
Dir: Jimmy Bemon
Scr: Jimmy Bemon
Starring: Kolia Abiteboul, Jules Rigault, Ivan Cori, Anais Parello, Theodore Batterham
Prd: Marc-Benoit Creancier
DOP: Brice Pancot
Run Time: 30mins
Superman Isn’t Jewish is screened as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival on 11 Nov.