Posted by: Noelle Buhidar | February 27, 2010

Review: ‘As Lilith’

I’m sure many True/False goers already have their documentary calendars meticulously planned out. But If they don’t have “As Lilith” marked on their must-see list, they will be missing out on one of the most absurd, brilliant and shocking documentaries the festival has to offer this year. As the documentary “As Lilith” shows, planning ahead doesn’t always pan out as you expect.

Lilith is beside herself when she finds her 14-year-old daughter hanging from a tree outside her bedroom window. She immediately decides she wants to have the body cremated — an act detested by ZAKA, a Jewish organization best known for its work in collecting human remains to ensure a proper Jewish burial. Even though Lilith was raised Jewish, she says she is now part of the ancient Atlantis Tribe and believes in scattering her daughter’s ashes into the sea. ZAKA quickly starts working to thwart Lilith’s plans, and as the story unfolds, viewers experience increasingly bizarre scenarios.

Director Eytan Harris started documenting the story of Lilith three days after her daughter’s unexpected suicide. He worked as a one man band shooting, writing, directing and producing the film. The subject of suicide is compelling by itself, but when coupled with a character like Lilith, suicide takes a backseat. Sure, her daughter’s death was the catalyst for this film, but a documentary on Lilith needed to be made anyway. Trust me.

As Harris’ camera observes Lilith and her son cope with death and ZAKA, the audience starts to pick up on character traits that sometimes make it challenging to choose sides. In her small town Zikhron Yaacov, Lilith is an outcast. She lives in the middle of a wealthy neighborhood, but her house is mangy and overrun with plants. She performs spiritual dances in the dirt of her yard; she’s the epitome of a Wicca hippie, and the children in the neighborhood refer to her as a witch.

Her real name isn’t Lilith. Lilith is a nickname given to her by the neighborhood. According to Israel tradition, Lilith is the queen of the demons who was Adam’s first wife until she was kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Harris captures neighbors accusing Lilith of causing her daughter’s death. These heartless actions toward a broken-hearted mother are ruthless and cruel. And it’s moments like these that border on unbearable to watch.

Although As Lilith covers a dark, morbid topic, the film also shines with light and laughter. Yes, there are moments where it’s hard to ignore the tears brimming in your eyes, but there are also scenes that are so nonsensical you can’t help but laugh. Somehow, Harris has crafted a nonfiction black comedy out of suicide that audiences are OK with watching. The film is short in length, and judging by the amount of applause after its conclusion, this story entertained and affected the large crowd gathered in the Windsor Cinema.

If you’re looking for a movie to see this weekend that will make you laugh, cry and cringe, go see “As Lilith.” And even if you’re not looking for a film that covers this spectrum of emotions, still go see it. The story is almost too good to be true, and at times you’ll wonder if it’s scripted. But this is part of the glory of the True/False Film Festival. It makes you question what is before you on the screen. By the end of “As Lilith,” you’ll have reached a decision on whether the story is real or not, and the suspense of this is part of what makes this film so unique. Without a doubt, this documentary is one of the most unforgettable films I’ve seen in my three years of attending True/False.

Other showings for “As Lilith”:
Saturday, Feb. 27 / 5:30 p.m. / The Hive
Sunday, Feb. 28 / 5:30 p.m. / Windsor Cinema

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