• hayley cagan kamis

L'Dor V'Dor: Movie magic from generation to generation

Updated: Feb 11, 2021

I've always loved movies and television. My dad enjoyed films in a very intellectual way, although I clearly remember his hysterical laughter - along with the rest of America - while watching each and every episode of the "Carol Burnett Show." Although I was too young to understand the humor, I longed to know what it felt like to enjoy something as much as he did in those 30 minutes. The earlier generation loved their movies, too, especially my grandparents. Whereas Grandpa Dave was a fan of Westerns (not quite my speed) Grandma Bert appreciated them all by default. And at 85 years old, she continued to defend BLAZING SADDLES as the best movie of all time...Yes, really.

My son, Matthew, doesn't exactly love movies. He LIVES for them, as in an eat-sleep-breathe, wash-rinse-repeat kind of way. He is the human incarnation of IMDb. Unlike myself and my predecessors, Matt exercises a take-no-prisoners pursuit of his dream to not just watch movies, but to study them inside and out so that he can make films of his own. He's run up against many an obstacle in the process: he knows more than most about the subject and isn't shy about uninvited fact-checking, which at times is expressed with the wording, enthusiasm and laser-focus attention to detail commonly observed in the communication styles of those with high-functioning Autism. Movies have scaffolded his learning about social nuances, contextual language, non-verbal communication, and the un-spoken rules and subtleties of expressive sub-text. I've always found it fascinating that the tool he's used as a model of interactive guidance is also the technical and artistic skill that oozes from his pores.

My son is now 23 year old man, or at least a man-child (dare I say, "aren't they all?"). He is thoughtful, sensitive, eloquent in both spoken and written word, and although naive in some ways, he is wise beyond his years with a perspective completely unique to him. Now that he has the opportunity to use his art to communicate ideas, Matthew is taking huge steps via independent film. And consistent with his modus operandi, Matt is going straight for the jugular with a controversial yet critical examination of the limitation and strength of "belief": the conflict we experience when we see our belief system from a different viewpoint, the pain that can follow when we realize that beliefs are not absolutes, and the gargantuan task of finding a way to balance both the light and dark in sitting with such discoveries.

For me, playing roles in Matt's films requires a distancing between being an actor in a writer/director's film vs. the mother of the son who wrote it. This photo was taken in the pre-filming of one of his projects with my role as a mother during the "Shabbat" or Jewish Sabbath meal. In the foreground are the candlesticks my great-grandmother received on her wedding day, which are the only items she was able to take with her when escaping the Russian Pogroms. It's quite humbling to be cast in my son's film, especially one that highlights our family's Jewish tradition with him as the fifth generation to light these same candlesticks. Although it required his mom to not play his mom, it is symbolic of the role I have gratefully accepted throughout Matthew's life: the mom present during the light, the dark and the in-betweens of it all.

Hence the name my son chose for this particular film, L'DOR V'DOR - "from generation to generation." It's a story about family, tradition, the challenges faced while reconciling the ways of our ancestors in a modern world, and how difficult it can be to wrestle with our faith in the process.

Matthew's goal in making this film is not only to bring attention to conflicts that can arise when acknowledging one's roots and beliefs within the diversity of a global community, but also the challenges inherent in finding and being true to oneself while accepting and respecting the unique differences within and between cultures. It's a vital perspective to consider not only for his generation, but for many generations to come. Regardless, I can't help but ponder the parallels of this message to what it may have been like for him growing up in a world whose inhabitants appear to share a common communicative understanding that at times seems foreign to his sensibilities.

Whereas the quality of writing, artistic interpretation, and the meaningfulness of a film gets said film's wheels spinning, the minutiae and financial realities of raising the funds required to bring a vision to fruition are overwhelming. Matt's level of focus, tenacity, attention to detail, and the willingness to step outside of his own comfort zone (which already had little wiggle-room within its borders) have spoken volumes regarding the degrees to which dreamers will go to transform their passion into reality. One might say this, too, symbolizes the journey my great-grandparents took when leaving the only home they had known for a new land, culture and language, and perhaps it's not much different than Matt's journey through his, albeit in his homeland. I may never have come close to understanding any of these concepts if not for my son's beautiful story and his juxtapositions to the threads of symbolism in our lives.

Watching, discussing, and being on the receiving end of an unasked-for-yet-delivered-nonetheless-lecture on the hidden elements within a film has changed my life forever. My father would have loved dissecting movies with his grandson. In my mind's eye I see Grandpa Dave beaming with pride for the affinity Matt has for Westerns. And Grandma Bert? She'd likely ignore every word Matt says, too busy applying wet kisses to his entire face while laughing at his equal (if not surpassed) love of Mel Brooks.

And me? I'm just the mom along for the ride, and what a ride it is. But I know now that I need not worry about his future, as my son is not only the shining star in my solar system, but is shooting towards his entry into a greater galaxy. One might even say he's "my density," but that "one" would need to love movies, too.

To learn more about Matt's film, L'DOR V'DOR, check out his link on indiegogo:

Or check out this article written for the New Jersey Jewish News:

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