"The Summer of Aviya"
a film review by
Linda L˙pez McAlister
Saturday, January 15, 2000

As you probably are aware by now, Annie Miller has been very busy lately organizing the first Florida Gulf Coast Jewish Film Festival for January 20,22, and 23rd at the Tampa Theater and the Golda Meir/Kent Jewish Center in Clearwater. She was kind enough to provide me with preview copies of some of the films that might be of particular interest to Women's Show listeners. One was an Israeli feature film called "The Summer of Aviya" that is a particularly intriguing and appealing story of a young girl in the summer of her 10th birthday, who spends the summer living with her mother.

That may not sound remarkable, but for Aviya it is. She basically lives at a boarding school because her mother, a former Polish partisan guerilla and concentration camp survivor, is often in the hospital due to her recurring mental illness. This particular year, 1951, much to Aviya's amazement and confusion, her mother appears at the end of year gathering and takes Aviya home with her, incensed because Aviya has lice in her hair that reminds her of the concentration camp. So here we have Aviya, the new kid in the beighborhood, with all her hair cut off, helping her mother by delivering the clean linens and clothes that her mother has washed and ironed to the customers. Most kids call her "Baldy" and "the crazy woman's daughter," in that cruel way children have of taunting someone different. But Aviya's mother, the Partisanke, seems to be doing well and life is good until a new family moves in and Aviya notices a piece of furniture that seems familiar to her. It turns out that she has seen it before in a picture of her father. To Aviya this means that the well dressed man of the family, Mr. Gantz, is really her long lost father. And, indeed, he does seem to be happy to see her mother, and they were, it turns out, from the same place in Poland. But if he actually is her father, he is now married with a new family, and is not willing to admit to it.

The other thing that happens to Aviya is that she passionately wants to join a ballet class taught by Maya, a twenty year old who, under her mother's guidance, seems bent on making the little girls in the village "little ladies." Of course, Aviya with her cropped hair and shorts and tee shirts, doesn't qualify. In her rage at being rejected and jeered at, she lashes out with violence. Then she and her mother are total Pariahs.

This is a simple, direct story, narrated in voice over by an adult Aviya (apparently the autobiography of Israeli actor Gila Almagor Who plays the mother here. ) It is very much worth your while to see this film that screens on January 23 at 8:30 at the Tampa Theater.

Just a quick word about another of the films I previewed. "Yidl in the Middle" is Marlene Booth's autobiographical documentary about what it was like to grow up Jewish in Des Moines, Iowa in the 1950s. It's plain vanilla documentary film making, but the topic is an interesting one and the people Marlene films are fascinating as she tries to figure out why her son is more comfortable with his Judaism that she is and why her parents were less so than she is; hence the title; Yidl means little Jew, i.e. Marlene, and she's the inbetween generation. It's playing with two other short films at the Matinee on January 23.

For the WMNF Women's Show this is Linda L˙pez McAlister on Women and Film.

Copyright 2000 by Linda Lopez McAlister