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Alon Schwarz, Shaul Schwarz (as Saul Schwarz)
AIDA’S SECRETS is a heartfelt documentary about secrets that could very well have been a fiction suspensor.
Though the film has Aida in the title, the woman Aida does not appear until half way into the picture. She is first seen in a senior’s home in Quebec visited by her two sons.
AIDA’S SECRETS begins with the character of Izak. Izak is clearly Jewish, getting up there in age and is first shown in a torn T-shirt sitting in a yard living in Israel. Izak, as a child was brought up by a loving family in Israel who never told him the truth of his origin. As a boy, his friends teased him that his parents were not his real parents. He finally finds out that he was an adopted child and that his birth mother is living in Canada. To his greeter surprise or rather shock, Izak finds that he has a brother, who is blind also living in Canada all through a family tree agency, the agent who seems as talented as a Sherlock Holmes.
Director Schwarz builds up his first third of his documentary with great finesse, piquing the audience curiosity as much as he can. The audience is as curious as Izak as to why his foster parents never told Izak the truth and why his mother kept he secret of his brother from him, after the two of them have met. As he title implies, there are more secrets to come – not to be revealed in this review to prevent spoilers.
Schwarz’s film takes a noticeable turn after the firs third when he finally meets his blind brother Shep for the first time in Canada. Suspense is unfortunately, turned into melodrama. Izak quips and hugs his brother Shep too many times: “You are my little brother. I love you. My little brother! My family!”
Aida has passed away since the film was completed leaving many questions the two sons unanswered. But some answers were provided by DNA tests as suggested by the agent of the family tree company. To his credit, many discoveries were made.
It is also fortunate that Izak’s father was a photographic specialist. There were lots and lots of old photographs that were studied with many conclusions drawn.
One touching scene is the first meeting of Izak and Shep at a Canadian airport. It is doubtful that the cameraman followed Izak on the plane or waited at the airport to capture the prized moment. It is more likely the reconciliation was an re-enactment. But the scene is still a powerful one.
The film also educates on what happened to the Jews after they were freed from the Nazi concentration camps. They were placed in displacement camps, like Izak’s father.
Ultimately AIDA’S SECRETS is about survival during the war. And the consequences, some uncontrollable that affect the lives of ordinary people. That is the reason the film is able to hold interest from start to end.