Uncovering secrets is usually a good bet for grabbing audience interest, and in the documentary “Aida’s Secrets,” co-directed by Alon and Shaul Schwartz, there is plenty to wonder about as the film progresses toward ultimate revelations.
The first point of interest is the connection of two brothers , one Izak, whom Aida Szewelewicz rescued from a displaced persons camp after World War II by sending him to Israel when he was three years old. It wasn’t until he was 67 that he learned he had a younger brother, Shepsel, who wound up in Canada, where Aida also settled. The filmmakers, Isak’s nephews, are investigators as well, uncovering information while making their documentary.
Aida visited Isak in Israel on occasion but didn’t tell him about Shepsel. After Isak learns of his brother’s existence, the film recounts their reunion. There is extra poignancy in that Shepsel is blind.
All that would be enough of a story, but Aida has another secret to be discovered. There is mystery in why she has kept that secret, and the film moves toward uncovering it. Better leave it to the viewer to learn about rather than divulge a spoiler.
Through it all we get to view a family separated by geography and secrecy, and we experience the pleasure to be found when connections are ultimately made. The filmmakers are skillful in building interest and suspense, and also in digging into emotions. Aida remains somewhat of a cipher in that she is tight-lipped and also vague at the advanced age at which we meet her. All of this adds to the family saga and drama in a highly unusual film. A Music Box Films release. Reviewed October 20, 2017.