The Holocaust inevitably hangs over any Jewish film festival, and “Mr. Kaplan” has the honor of being the first movie with a Holocaust connection at the 2015 festival.
“Mr. Kaplan” is not a documentary, and it’s not set in the Holocaust. Instead, it mixes gentle humor and a sweet, unlikely friendship to tell a story of survivors nearing the end of life and how they find meaning in being able to live their full four score years after the Nazis killed so many others.
The title character, having settled in Uruguay after escaping his native Poland as a boy, is 76 when the movie takes place in 1997. He’s not healthy, and he’s not safe to drive, which is why he finds himself spending every day with much-younger ex-cop Contreras in a “Driving Miss Daisy” scenario, minus the racial issues.
But instead of Miss Daisy and Hoke, Kaplan and Contreras turn out to be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza as they plot to expose the aging owner of a beach bar as an escaped Nazi. They make an entertaining pair, and their friendship, leavened by Kaplan’s relationship with granddaughter Lottie, gives “Mr. Kaplan” enough heart to carry its message about the most important things in life.
(Screenings Jan. 29, Feb. 7 and Feb. 9 are sold out, but tickets remain for Feb. 4 at GTC Merchants Walk and Feb. 10 at UA Tara; ajff.org.)
— Michael Jacobs