Review by Mark Schwab
February 24, 2018
The Talmud, arranged marriages, sins of the elders visited through the 7th generation and searching for ultimate truth from a reclusive artist. All of this wrapped up in the structure of a documentary-style buddy/road movie. It's a tall order that the independent feature film EZER KENEGDO couldn't quite fill for me but that doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't check it out.
Daniel Kremer and Deniz Demirer write, direct and star as the "buddy" section of the film. They are a study in opposites with Kremer practicing as a devout Jew and Demirer as a more laid-back San Franciscan. Both of them are harboring insecurities about who they are and wondering whether or not to live more authentic lives. So, they get in a car and hit the road to interview the talented but reclusive Harry Kierk who is determined to burn everything he has created.
It isn't a spoiler to say that they eventually get an audience with Harry but it is a small portion of the film. The old saying that "getting there is half the fun" on any journey has always struck me as false and I see no reason to change my opinion now. Until the film focuses itself when they reach Harry's place, EZER KENEGDO wanders from sequence to sequence in an almost stream-of-editing consciousness; lots of mumblecore-style dialogue, lots of philosophical questions, lots of religious unpacking - almost all of it in a random order, narrative-wise. It's difficult to grab onto emotionally even though the subjects are worthy and intelligent. It makes the film feel much slower than it should.
When the bickering friends do finally get to Harry Kierk's place, the movie really comes alive and coheres. Harry is played by avant-garde filmmaker Rob Nilsson and it's a brilliant bit of casting. I really loved two of Nilsson's films from the 80's - ON THE EDGE (with a terrific lead turn by Bruce Dern) and HEAT AND SUNLIGHT (a glorious bit of indie rage starring Nilsson). Nilsson embodies the angry artist perfectly and turns the film on its head. In a great way. I could have watched Kremer and Demirer interact with Harry for 90 minutes easily.
But since we don't get that, we need to look at what is actually there. I genuinely feel that EZER KENEGDO could be vastly improved with a different edit. I'm not sure exactly how that could or would be done but my hunch is they have a lot of footage lying around - probably perfectly good footage - that can let them focus their story on one or two of the best elements and streamline it until they get to Harry's place. Or maybe just get us to Harry's place as soon as possible if the footage is there to support it.
EZER KENEGDO, even as is, has the potential to find a specific and admiring audience (I would guess the Jewish community could find a lot to enjoy here). But with some editing...it could have a much broader appeal. There is a good film buried in EZER KENEGDO if Kremer and Demirer can find it.