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Life in Stills (2011)

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A photo shop owner and her grandson join forces to save the shop and the nearly one million negatives that document Israel's defining moments.

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At the age of 96, Miriam Weissenstein never imagined that she would be facing a new chapter in her life. But when "The Photo House" - her late husband Rudi's life's work - was destined for demolition, even this opinionated and uncompromising woman knew she needed help. Under the cloud of a family tragedy, a special relationship is forged between Miriam and her grandson, Ben, as they join forces to save the shop and its nearly one million negatives that document Israel's defining moments. Despite the generation gap and many conflicts, Ben and Miriam embark on a heart-wrenching journey, comprising many humorous and touching moments. Written by Tamar Tal

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May 2011 (Israel)  »

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Ha'Tzalmania  »

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One million negatives and no place to store them
31 July 2013 | by See all my reviews

Life in Stills (2011) is a documentary written and directed by Tamar Tal. Rudi Weissenstein was a famous photographer in Israel. Not only did he run an active photographic studio, but he took pictures of some of the most important events and people in Israeli history.

The film follows several years in the lives of Weissenstein's widow--Miriam--and his grandson--Ben--as they try to make a living selling Weissenstein's photographs while saving their photo shop from demolition.

It's hard to believe that the Israeli government, or the Tel Aviv municipal government, won't declare these negatives and photos a national treasure, and protect them. However, that's not what happened. It was left to Miriam and Ben to protect the negatives and to save their store.

The film had its stronger points and its weaker points. Mirriam Weissenstein, at age 96, is a tough, opinionated woman who has a sharp mind and an even sharper tongue. Her grandson is an intelligent and decent guy. However, in my opinion, their interactions weren't quite interesting enough to carry the film.

Rudi Weissenstein was apparently a skilled and artistic photographer. I would have preferred a documentary about his work, with copious illustrations of his photographs. That's not the film that the director made, however. Very few images of the photos themselves appear in the movie.

We saw this film at Rochester's Dryden Theatre, as part of the brilliant Rochester Jewish Film Festival. Festival Director Lori Harter pulled off a double coup. She brought the filmmaker to the Festival, and she arranged for an exhibition of some of Weissenstein's photos at the George Eastman House. My compliments to Harter and to the RJFF Festival Committee for giving viewers both of these opportunities.

This is a film that will work well on DVD, and deserves to be seen. (Right now it has a 7.8 IMDb rating, which is excellent.) I won't say, "See it at all costs." However, when it's available on DVD, or if it shows at a film festival, it's worth a look.


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