Next Year Jerusalem

Studio: First Run Features
Directed by David Gaynes

May 21, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Epic films tend to run over two and a half hours and involve swords and shields, guns and explosions, or span the globe. But could an epic be defined, not by the budget and resources invested into a film, but rather by the scope of the journey taken by its characters? If so, then at 72 minutes, Next Year Jerusalem might be one of the quietest, subtlest, and reflective epics of the year. Director David Gaynes’ understated documentary follows eight senior citizens as they make a pilgrimage from their assisted living facility in Connecticut to Jerusalem

Unlike many touted documentaries–those that seek to expose secrets or reveal truths that inform the public about crimes, conspiracies, and atrocities to motivate viewers into social change–Next Year Jerusalem has no overriding agenda; perhaps that’s why it’s so easy to feel swept up while watching it. More than a record of the adventurous retirees’ voyage to Israel, the film is a collage of the various perspectives on life people gain as they attain old age. Some of the featured seniors are bored by their current situation; others are forever on the go, wandering the halls and pressed for enough time to do everything they want to achieve. They don’t talk much about their personal histories, but they don’t need to. By talking about what’s going on in the present, by observing them in their day-to-day, we get to know them just as well as we would, perhaps even better, than if they spent the film talking about their time prior to their arrival at the care facility.

The average age of the explorers is over 90 years old. For some, it’s a return to a sacred place. For others, it is their first international trip. For all, the journey is considerable: not only physically—some cannot move unaided—but emotionally. Watching their eyes as they stare out their tour bus window says more about what the trip means than their words could, and Gaynes pays respect to the silence in his edit. Next Year Jerusalem won’t change minds on major social issues, but it doesn’t have to. The journey is enough.

firstrunfeatures.com/nextyearjerusalem

Author rating: 7/10

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