‘Back to the Fatherland’ Review: Israelis Who Look to Put History Aside

The idea is interesting but the implementation is uneven in “Back to the Fatherland,” a documentary that looks at two generations of Israelis: one is hopeful, the other wary.

The film, directed by Kat Rohrer and Gil Levanon, speaks with several young Israelis who have resettled in Germany or Austria, and hears from their grandparents, who are Holocaust survivors. The older Israelis discuss how they feel about their grandchildren’s decisions to move to countries that once set out to exterminate Jews.

We watch some of those grandparents travel back to visit Europe, and we listen to the grandchildren contemplate their lives abroad. The filmmakers themselves are part of the story — Levanon is from Israel and a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor; Rohrer is from Austria and a grandchild of a Nazi officer.

The survivors offer several potent recollections. Yet most other scenes linger and provide few insights. Locations and people are inadequately identified. (In one section a grandson and grandmother point to old photos in an album and comment on them; strangely, viewers are never shown the photos being discussed.) And there are frequent protracted silences, none of which are particularly contemplative.

It doesn’t help that a number of recent documentaries (among them “Germans & Jews” and “What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy”) have tackled similar topics with sharper interviewing skills and challenging questions.

In the final scene of “Back to the Fatherland,” the filmmakers go into an attic to find a Nazi uniform once worn by Rohrer’s grandfather. It’s a tough yet effective moment. And it’s the kind this well-meaning documentary needs more of.

Back to the Fatherland

Not rated. In English, German and Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 16 minutes.

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