You’ve already seen “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Jurassic World: Dominion,” so while you wait with baited breath for “Bullet Train” and “Avatar: The Way of Water,” you should seek out these four intriguing films, which, unlike the slam-boom-bang of the big-screen summer tentpoles (not that we don’t love them because we do!), might actually give you something to contemplate after the credits roll.
“Image of Victory”
Director: Avi Nesher
I love learning new history, and thus Avi Nesher’s “Image of Victory” was a sumptuous instruction manual presented in the form of an epic story of war and love. It’s 1948, and the State of Israel is about to formally declare itself a nation. Egypt is unhappy, and positions its forces to invade with all due speed. It will all come to a head at a desert kibbutz, which, despite living in peace, nonetheless has prepared for imminent conflict.
At the kibbutz we meet Mira (Joy Reiger), a young mother in an unhappy marriage. Gunfire is known to al”IMl around her, but when the raids threaten to become a storm, Mira and her colleagues will face incredible odds. On the other side of the story, a young documentary filmmaker named Hassanin (Amir Khoury) is embedded with Egypt’s forces on what they hope will be a quick and decisive victory. Mira and Hassanin will not meet, as it were, but their stories will entwine in a most fascinating manner that will change them both forever.
Magnificently photographed and based on true events, “Image of Victory” takes a complicated issue and examines it from multiple sides—all the while reminding us that, behind any banner are people fighting for what they believe in.
Now available on Netflix
Director: Marq Evans
Will Vinton dreamed of being the next Walt Disney, and from his claymation enterprise in Portland, Oregon, he sought to live that dream. You can be forgiven for not knowing his name, or that his ambitions didn’t quite play out as expected. “Claydream” tells Vinton’s unique story, starting with his hippie-dippy days at Berkeley, where he met fellow animation whiz Bob Gardiner. The pair won an Oscar early on, but their partnership soon imploded, with Gardiner descending into substance abuse and mental illness. Meanwhile, Vinton’s ambitions knew no limits, and he imagined that his full-length claymation feature “The Adventures of Mark Twain” would be a blockbuster. It was not. However, subsequent work with Michael Jackson and creating the California Raisins brought him a modicum of success, even as Vinton ruefully tells the camera that he saw scant profits from the Raisins venture. But it was a fortuitous partnering with another Portland entrepreneur, Phil Knight of Nike, that would earn him serious fame and fortune—before that venture too hit the rocks.
“Claydream” is an intriguing look at a lesser-known segment of film history, and also investigates the creative process behind a most unusual man. Vinton may not now be as known as Disney, but his place in animation history is nonetheless secure.
In select theaters August 5
“Let Me Be Me”
Directors: Dan Crane and Katie Taber
Kyle Westphal’s story is inspiring. He was diagnosed as severely autistic as a child, and his parents told their best hope was to institutionalize him. However, thanks to an enterprising treatment program that provided loving guidance to his parents and siblings, Kyle gradually came out of his shell. Now a young man, we see how his childhood fascination with girl’s clothing has led him to a rather fine career designing women’s fashion. He approaches it with the singular focus of the driven, and his joy at doing something he truly loves is beautiful to behold.
Simchas and Sorrows
Director: Genevieve Adams
This charmingly quirky film features director-writer Genevieve Adams as Agnes, a Catholic woman who decides to convert to Judaism for her fiance. Numerous fish-out-of-water jokes ensue, but the film is far less interested in obvious cheap laughs than with examining how we shape our own identities.
“Simchas and Sorrows” (released by Gravitas Ventures) recently played at both the Bentonville and the San Francisco Jewish Film festival. The film will have a limited theatrical release in Los Angeles on September 16th and be available on all VOD platforms starting September 20th.