The Biblical tale of Noah’s ark is often read as a story about the lifesaving rewards of being the only guy on earth who’s following the rules. The Flood, this year’s opener for the Seattle Jewish Film Festival, has a different—and darker, and more interesting—idea about how the story should be read. The film uses the ark-floating flood as an opportunity to explore the types of existences that create an intense and understandable desire for the whole fucking insane world to be washed away and restarted anew, this time with just the good-hearted humans (and plenty of cute animals).
Yoni is a young boy living in a small Israeli village where his father lopes about stoned and depressed and failing at everything. Meanwhile, his mother tries to put a good face on keeping the household, her day-care center, and her enthusiasm for life all up and running. There are bullies at Yoni’s school, and they’re rough, but they’re kept at bay by a somewhat lucrative defense system he’s erected: He does what seems like the entire school’s homework for a few shekels from each student, handed to him in a dirty bathroom every morning.
One day, Yoni’s severely autistic brother is suddenly sent home from the institution he was being housed in, and the fragile mechanics of Yoni’s not-great-but-getting-by life go into complete collapse.
This cinematically uneven but otherwise compelling (and award-winning) movie kicks off a festival that this year looks to be heavy on interpersonal Jewish drama. There’s a “knotty family drama” (Restoration), a “brewing family melodrama” (Let My People Go!) that involves a recently broken-up gay son, and even a dolphin movie about a father, a son, and “the magical healing power of nature” (Dolphin Boy). Also: “Israel’s first slasher movie” (Rabies) and the requisite story about how a peace camp (My So-Called Enemy), or maybe a “cross-cultural circus” (Circus Kids), can help solve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The theme is “L’chaim!”—translation: To life!—and that seems appropriate for this lineup. To life, even when life makes you want to kill everyone.