The plight of Genestal's hidden children is repeated, this time with consequences extending to future generations, in Noa Ben Hagai's remarkable documentary BLOOD RELATION (2009; MFA: November 7 @ 2:15 pm). The filmmaker comes across some old letters and learns, for the first time, of her great aunt, Pnina. No one in her family has ever mentioned the existence of this person, who disappeared from the family home in Jaffa at the age of 14 and resurfaced years later, married to an Arab and with a number of children. Not only that, but Ben Hagai learns that many of Pnina's descendants are now living in the Palestinian refugee camp of Nablus on the West Bank.
Out of a sense of familial responsibility, and perhaps also sensing the potential for a movie, Ben Hagai persuades her uncle, a former high-ranking officer in the Israeli Army, to organize a reunion between the two branches — Israeli and Arab — of the family. What follows from this attempt at a good deed, recorded by Ben Hagai with candor and dramatic skill, proves a microcosm of recent Middle East history, in all its ambiguity, heartbreak, frustration, and despair.
Family ties are given another twist in Argentine director Fabián Hofman's affecting, subtle, semi-autobiographical I MISS YOU (2010; West Newton: November 7 @ 5:30 pm). Javier (Fermín Volcoff), 15 and in high school, idolizes his lovable scamp of a brother, Adrián (Martin Slipak). Reckless and charismatic, Adrián can't do anything wrong. Well, not in the eyes of his family, at any rate — but when a military coup strikes Argentina in 1976, the new regime looks askance at Adrián's political activism.
One night, Adrián disappears, and the panicked family sends Javier packing to Mexico for his own safety. There he loafs about, meets up with some of Adrián's on-the-lam comrades, falls in love, and in general ponders the value of resistance and revolt versus the satisfactions of a normal life. With his unobtrusive hand-held photography and elliptical editing, Hofman emphasizes the everyday reality of the story, muting the melodrama and underplaying the politics. The religious aspects are subdued as well — not much is made of the fact that Javier and his family are Jews. But then you realize that Javier's flight to and exile in Mexico follows a pattern that the Jewish people have undergone over and over since the days of Exodus.
Karl Marx was no stranger to this cyclical view of things, famously stating that history repeats itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce. Such would seem the fate of the ill-fated Marxist Leon Trotsky, né Leon Bronstein, at least as far as Jacob Tierney's blithe and trenchant THE TROTSKY (2009; Coolidge Corner: November 8 @ 7 pm) is concerned. Named after the famed revolutionary, Montreal high-school student Leon Bronstein has taken it into his head that he is his namesake's reincarnation. It's an identity he embraces — he believes he is fated to repeat all the events in Trotsky's life, up to and including Trotsky's assassination by a Stalinist agent.