Monthly Archives: May 2015

“PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL MONOGAMIST”— Is the Grass Always Greener?

serial monagamist poster

“Portrait of a Serial Monogamist”

Is the Grass Always Greener?

Amos Lassen

Eve (Grace Lynn Kung) is a forty-something lesbian and accomplished breakup artist who leaves her long-standing girlfriend to pursue a younger woman. She is haunted by the ways things once were for her and her partner and she realizes that she has broken up with the love of her life. This romantic comedy is set in the LGBT community in Toronto and looks at the issues of commitment and does so with humor that transcends age and sexuality as it looks at the issues that we all face sometime.


This is a coming-of-age film and is just a feel good movie. I will have more news about it soon.

“Digital Militarism: Israel’s Occupation in the Social Media Age” by Adi Kuntsman and Rebecca Stein— Social Media, Israel and the “Occupation”

digital militarism

Kuntsman, Adi and Rebecca Stein. “Digital Militarism: Israel’s Occupation in the Social Media Age”, Stanford University Press, 2015.

Social Media, Israel and the “Occupation”

Amos Lassen

Social Media has changed our lives drastically and we saw that the Egyptian revolution was the product of it. Today we get news of events as they are happening or of events that happen because of social media. Social media has not only changed life dramatically in the Western world, with everybody worrying about how many instagram followers they have, it has shifted the dynamic massively in some of the world’s most politically frosty regions. It has certainly changed the way we look at what some call Israel’s occupation. Adi Kuntsman and Rebecca Stein maintain that during the last yen years, military rule in the Palestinian territories grew more bloody and entrenched. In the same period, Israelis became some of the world’s most active social media users, with some even using tools like nitreo to increase their following and boost their online visibility. What they do not say is that Palestine, without the use of social media, has continued to wage war against Israel just as other Arab nations have done the same of the last sixty-plus years with the goal of ridding the world of the “Zionist pigs”.

Stein and Kuntsman further maintain that “in Israel today, violent politics are interwoven with global networking practices, protocols, and aesthetics. Israeli soldiers carry smart phones into the field of military operations, sharing mobile uploads in real-time. Official Israeli military spokesmen announce wars on Twitter. And civilians encounter state violence first on their newsfeeds and mobile screens.” Again they do not say that the Palestinians also have equal advantage to social media but do not use it. I can only wonder if this is because they have never been trained to use it or have never learned to use it. Whatever the reason may be, I can assure you that it is not because of lack of education or good schools. The education, the schools and the teachers are there for those who want them but unfortunately that is not the rule of the majority who are content not to pursue education. It gives them one more thing to bitch about but it is NOT true that the schools in Gaza and the West Bank have lower educational ideals and goals. It is many of the Palestinians who have to desire to be educated formally.

The authors here explore “the rise of Israeli digital militarism in this global context-both the reach of social media into Israeli military theaters and the occupation’s impact on everyday Israeli social media culture.” Social media in Israel is used as “a crucial theater in which the Israeli military occupation is supported and sustained.” They attempt to show

online militarization and the extension of state politics in the virtual realm. They claim to “expose the machinery of the Israeli state power at work within social media, and show the possibilities for countering the force of this machinery.” Israel has one of the finest intelligence systems in the world and we can be sure that none of the information from within has been doled put to others not involved especially if they want to write a book about it. Nonetheless, the authors’ thesis is powerfully argued, researched (with what they were indeed allowed to see). It is also to some degree thought provoking in that I think that this is a very one0siderd and inaccurate picture of what is going on. It does show “how information and communication technologies have turned into wartime arsenals, and the Internet and social networks into digital battlefields.” However, it is completely one-sided and we really do not get satisfactory information about Palestine as regards social media.

“Prognosis Forever” by Etienne— Living and Loving


Etienne. “Prognosis: Forever ”, Etienne, 2011.

Living and Loving

Amos Lassen

“Prognosis: Forever’ is the sequel to Etienne’s “The Path to Forever” and both books have been revised and reissued. The main idea of “Prognosis” deals with being able to live forever and watching friends grow old and die and the effect of loving someone knowing you would live forever… without them? Now Marco Sartori d’Argenzio and his partner Danilo Rosati have created a family and settled in Aragoni, but they still face the challenge of Marco’s family’s legacy— that he might live forever. However, this is not true for Dani unless the secret to Marco’s DNA is discovered. Marco and Dani are more focused on their children and the future and not the past but a threat of a bomb attack harkens a very real change in the fate of the two men— the possibility of the dream future of living together forever. However, they also realize that this can cause a sense of danger to hover over the entire d’Argenzio family. Marco and Dani are willing to do everything they can to protect their family.

The setting of the novel is the small duchy of Aragoni where Marco and Danilo have settled down into routine life. Their quiet and peaceful existence changes when a small bomb is thrown into the van they are riding in and an old enemy suddenly re-enters their lives. Marco suffered only minor cuts and bruises but Dani suffers greater damage—one f his kidneys is damaged beyond repair, and the other kidney is failing. Marco decided to use the fact that Dani is hospitalized to get his mother and grandmother to come to Aragoni to visit in the hope that there will be some kind of reconciliation. Dani’s family disowned him when he introduced them to Marco and referred to him as his boyfriend. They do come but Dani’s kidney is failing and he has to begin dialysis. This continued for some two years when a brain-dead patient is admitted to the hospital with a kidney that is a perfect match. With successful surgery, Dani returns to good health and also with an extra bonus……

Once again we are charmed by Etienne’s writing style, plot and character development. We see that he did his research carefully and once again gives us a wonderful reading experience.




“The Path to Forever”— Live Eternally


Etienne. “The Path to Forever”, Etienne, 2015.

Living Eternally

Amos Lassen

I just received word that Etienne has revised and reissued one of this early books, “The Path to Forever” so even thought I had reviewed it in the past, I decided to take another look.

There is something fascinating about the quest for eternity and I have often wondered why anyone would want to live forever especially because none of his friends would be with him. I imagine it would be very lonely. Doctor Marco Sartori d’Argenzio thinks about this especially when celebrating his residency as well as his partner’s PhD which he and lover, Danilo do by vacationing to Marco’s father’s home in the Alps of Italy. Marco learns then that his father is more than 2000 years old and Marco can expect to live as long.

Marco realizes that everyone else will have short loves in comparison to his own but it is heartbreaking to him to realize that his love affair with Danilo will be relatively short and that he will outlive him. Danilo has begun studying the family DNA and hoping to discover the secret of the family but even more so because he doesn’t want Marco to be alone after he, himself, is gone.

Reading this makes me look at eternity and the fountain of youth completely differently. Here we see what had once been ideals can also become burdens. However a good story can get lost if it is not written about well and I found Etienne to be brilliant here. Not only is the writing excellent and the plot interesting, this is a book that gives you the chance to think about things differently. Etienne gives us different layers to his story and we can read them and interpret them as we like. There is also a challenge to that author here—how does he develop a character that will live forever? You will have to read this to find out.

This book is an interesting contradiction in itself. We get Etienne’s wonderful writing style and plot development and I love the alternating points of view from the two main characters. As usual with Etienne we get detailed and vivid descriptions of the heroes’ travels, activities and many friends. What you will not find is lots of sex and/or intimacy but these are not necessary in this story.

“BABY’— Obsessed with Sex



Obsessed with Sex

Amos Lassen

Joe is a teenage boy finds all around him has sexual overtones as he lives a teenage life of drugs and masturbation. This is an unusual, hypnotic, suggestive, intriguing and enticing short film.

The film follows Joe’s day at the local swimming pool, as he recalls it later lying in bed, smoking pot and masturbating. Most of the film is in flashback—as Joe is in bed we see what he sees in his imagination. He thinks about the swimming pool whose images and sounds provide the stimulus for his bedroom activity. The production is superb in every way, attention to each shot is evident and even the sounds of the echoing pool and glug of the water are brilliantly recorded. It’s also a study of confused or ambiguous teenage sexuality: Joe is turned on alternately by his memory of a fit young male springboard diver, a young lady swimmer, guys showering off and the armpit of an Asian female newsagent.

The film is beautifully done, witty, suggestive and sensual. As the director has said that the film is not about being gay or straight but about the pleasures of the flesh.

To a degree, the film is hypnotic and when Joe goes swimming it’s hard to tear your eyes away from the screen. It’s a very sexual piece and offers no concrete questions or answers for anything but it’s certainly worth watching.

“THE CLEARING”— A Brief Note

the clearing


Keeping a Secret

Amos Lassen

In a small town in the Midwest Clay, (Daniel Lennox) has kept a secret for over 15 years. Three months ago, he was forced to tell his wife Sheri (Meg Cionni) after learning that Father Paul (William Morgan Sheppard), the priest who sexually molested him when he was thirteen has moved into the neighborhood.

“Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel” by Alice Walker— Who Needs Alice Walker?

overcoming speechlessness

Walker, Alice. “Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Palestine/Israel”, Seven Stories Press, 2010.

Who Needs Alice Walker?

Amos Lassen

Alice Walker once seemed to have it all. She was a respected writer and winner of a Pulitzer Prize but lately and by that I mean in the last twenty years, she has used her fame to lash out against what she calls injustices when in effect, she does not have any idea of what she is talking about. And this is how she will be remembered—as a woman who used her well-earned famer as a writer to speak out about issues that do not affect her directly and of which she has no background. Even more interesting is that she has become a black anti-Semite and espouses hate at every opportunity—so much so, that her own daughter is no longer speaking to her.

In 2006, Alice Walker, while working with Women for Women International, visited Rwanda and the eastern Congo to witness the aftermath of the genocide in Kigali. Invited by Code Pink, an antiwar group working to end the Iraq War, Walker traveled to Palestine/Israel three years later to view what she calls the devastation on the Gaza Strip. Here is her testimony. I am only concerned with what she has to say about Israel and it is clear to me that she has gone the way of two other misguided and self-promoting female “scholars”, Sarah Schulman and Judith Butler. To even make this more interesting, all three of these women are out lesbians who take the side of Palestine, a place where their sexual orientation would not allow them to remain alive for long. But hey, both talk and sex are cheap these days.

Walker, so the blurb says, bears “witness to the depravity and cruelty, she presents the stories of the individuals who crossed her path and shared their tales of suffering and courage. Part of what has happened to human beings over the last century, she believes, is that we have been rendered speechless by unusually barbaric behavior that devalues human life. We have no words to describe what we witness. Self-imposed silence has slowed our response to the plight of those who most need us, often women and children, but also men of conscience who resist evil but are outnumbered by those around them who have fallen victim to a belief in weapons, male or ethnic dominance, and greed.” These are pretty words if you speak “Walkerese”.

Walker writes that she traveled to the Gaza Strip in 2009 to witness the suffering caused by the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Here, she TELLS STORIES of women and children brutalized by war. (Capitalization intentional and the word “stories” here is important).She recalls (which is not the same as remembering) “visiting villages reduced to rubble, listening to women mourn the death of their children, sharing modest meals, and sharing stories of her own struggles growing up in the South, the U.S. civil rights movement, and learning the importance of connections to friends and family.” (She does not mention that she is a lesbian here because f she had she probably would have been escorted out of the area). Walker attempts to link “modern-day atrocities to older cruelties, including the Holocaust and the Trail of Tears. She claims to have found resilience in the midst of atrocities, and she “uses her own voice, as poet and activist, to speak out against injustices in the world’s trouble spots.” What she forgets is the history of the Jewish people and the state of Israel as well as the constant bombardment and aggression from the Arab countries. When did she become so knowledgeable about the Middle East? The truth be known that she is not knowledgeable at all about it and much of what she says is based about warped thinking and influence from others.

What an unfortunate fate to befall a writer who has shown such promise. I have no idea how or why she has become the hate monger that she has become but I do wish she would shut up. It is also interesting that there was a time that publishing houses would fight to publish Walker and now she is published by a minor house.

“Khirbet Khizeh: A Novel” by S. Yizhar— It Happened a Long Time Ago

khirbet khizeh

Yizhar. S. “Khirbet Khizeh: A Novel”, translated by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck, afterword by David Shulman, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.

It Happened a Long Time Ago

Amos Lassen

I have often heard “Khirbet Khizeh” called the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” of Israel. Both books are known by the controversy they caused and during the course of this review, I think you will understand what I mean by that. “Khirbet Khizeh” is S. Yizhar’s fictionalized account of life as a soldier in the Israeli army during the 1948-49 war, and was published shortly after the war’s end. It has for many years been unavailable in English translation but now has been newly translated again and has been published with a new afterword.

Yizhar was the pen name of Yizhar Smilansky. He was a native born Israeli and a longtime member of the Knesset who is most famous as the author of “Khirbet Khizeh” and the non-translated magnum opus “Days of Ziklag”. He died in 2006. My connection to the book goes back to when I lived in Israel and it seemed like everyone had read this book and had an opinion about it. I have long wanted to teach it but the translation that existed missed the mark on several issues and it was not until this new translation was recently published that I feel comfortable enough to give a go and it will be part of one of the courses I will be teaching in the fall. This new translation by Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck gives the novel a renewed poetic significance and makes for its place of relevance for today’s contemporary culture.

The narrator starts his account by noting that the event he is describes here “happened a long time ago, but it has haunted [him] ever since.” He writes of the passage of time and his hope that time would heal the sorrow and despair he felt about what he writes in “Khirbet Khizeh”. That did not happen and we are taken back to the beginning of his story. We do not just go back to his story but also back to his mindset before he was so disturbed by what he experienced in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948. his and his cavalry’s actions.

We are thrust into both the internal and external action of the story and we stay there throughout the 144 pages of the text. One of the problems of reading literature in translation is that the physical translated words that we see on a page are not really translations but representations of the original in which the novel was written. In the case of this translation of “Khirbet Khizeh”, this is not the case.

Translators De Lange and Dweck capture the poetic essence of the text beautifully and aptly. The Dickens-like sentences come together as paragraphs that pull us in and move us forward. We sense and actually feel the action, the distress, and the ambivalence that characterizes Yizhar’s work. Yizhar wrote this on an intimate and personal scale and it is quite powerful in that it still connects to the present with an answer that is not only relevant but also accurate. Yizhar Smilansky was an intelligence officer who had acute vision and mortal dignity. He knew that during the war in 1948 that Arabs had been expelled from their homes. This experience led him to write “Khirbet Khizeh” which was published in 1949 under a pen name. It is the story of a tormented soldier who was reluctantly following orders to evict helpless Arab children, women and the elderly from their village.

In the years following the novel’s publication, Israel experienced a defensive silence which was only occasionally broken until the mid-1980s when newly declassified records were looked at my Israeli journalist and historian, Benny Morris. He documented the places where expulsions occurred and what he found made its way into textbooks and general knowledge. Looking back at history in Israel, we see that then prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1979 wrote in his memoir that the Arab residents of the towns of Lydda and Ramle were expelled from their homes during the War of Independence. What this was it seems was a contradiction of the official heroic line of the time and this pictured Arabs as fighting and not being forced out. Rabin wrote about the opposite and five paragraphs of his memoir that contained this information were deleted before publication. Those in the Israel Defense Forces knew of the expulsions as did S. Yizhar who dared to write a book about them.

In the deleted paragraphs of Rabin’s memoir, he shows compassion but not for the expelled Arabs—rather for the Jews who were assigned to carry it out. What we see here is that Yizhar was not alone n what he had to say. His narrator is a lonely man who comrades in the army are deaf to their own internal feelings. He is torn by the cruelty of war that he sees all around him and he grew to hate himself. Yizhar down to write a war novel that disregards all of the pieties of that genre and develops into an anguished–and unresolved–meditation on Jewish history and the meaning of exile. This is from whence its relevance comes still.

“Khirbet Khizeh” instantly became a classic of modern Hebrew prose. Yizhar continues the biblical tradition with prose that is poetic and filled with longing. More important is that the consequences of what happened at places like Khirbet Khizeh are still headline news, which makes this short, powerful book a work of prophecy and not so much about history. This is the story of a young Israeli soldier who is on duty and on that day finds himself battling on two fronts: with the villagers and, ultimately, with his own conscience. The various debates that have come about as a result of the novel make this more than just a novel but an important historical document. It is also very fine literature filled with Yizhar’s haunting, lyrical style and charged view of the landscape. It is no surprise that “Khirbet Khizeh” is considered a modern Hebrew masterpiece, it is an extraordinary and heartbreaking book.

What Yizhar (Smilansky) knew or hoped was that he was ahead of his time,. That is why his story begins by framing it as a recollection from the distant future. The narrator, like the reader, was known by the author to be unable to see for years to come.

“Khirbet Khizeh” is a work of masterful insight and storytelling that grips you and makes us enter the experience of its narrator and his companions, as they do what the author had done. The book was like a seed. It was planted in the minds of Israelis and it grew. Now at last we have it in English. The fact that the book was ahead of its time is a benefit and a disadvantage. “When the narrator makes a slight resistance to what he is engaged in, no reader can find anything but humanitarian motivation in his resistance. The idea that this soldier, questioning his fellow soldiers, is engaged in anti-Semitism would literally make no sense. He’s revolted by the cruelty, no more no less — cruelty that every adult and child has to have always known was part of any mass settlement of ancient lands in 1948.” This new translation is lyrical and captivating. I read this translation with a copy of the Hebrew text next to it and my faithful up-to-date electronic Hebrew/English dictionary. (This is one of my habits when reading translations). We become immediately aware of the author’s uses of biblical allusion. The Hebrew text is of an extraordinary high level (something that would compare probably to Abba Eben’s spoken Hebrew that was always perfect and not usually the Hebrew spoken by the masses). There is also the portrait of the early sin of Israel.

To me it seems that this is a book that cried out to be written. It begins and ends with tortured introspection and we read of days minus combat yet with operational order to burn, blow up, imprison, load and convey with a restraint that is born of true culture. We see the village of Khirbet sitting on a hill, alone and silent. The village is awakened by a machine-gunner who peppers the village with bullets. There are small figures running in the fields and the gunner tries to kill them but is soon replaced by another gunner who wants his chance to kill. The military unit descends on the town and heads after old men and mothers with children. Arabs are brought to the city square where they are put on trucks with nothing in their hands or on their bodies and they are dumped on the other side of the borders. We see a woman holding a child and weeping—all she has ever known is gone now. The child looks at the soldier as if to mouth “why”? I cannot help but wonder what would happen if this book was to be translated into Arabic and taught in Palestinian schools. Would students then find justice for their rage or would they also see the conscience of their enemy, even if struggles in vain against the outcome.

The best we can wish for is that there be no more Khirbet Khizehs on the people of Palestine and many more Khirbet Khizehs on the world.

“Leo Strauss on the Borders of Judaism, Philosophy, and History” by Jeffrey A. Bernstein— Connecting Philosophy, Jewish Thought and History

leo Strauss

Bernstein, Jeffrey Alan. “Leo Strauss on the Borders of Judaism, Philosophy, and History”, (Suny Series in the Thought and Legacy of Leo Strauss), SUNY Press, 2015.

Connecting Philosophy, Jewish Thought and History

Amos Lassen

I recently studied Spinoza with Jeffrey Bernstein and was amazed at how much I did not know and how much I want to know—but then, that is philosophy. Bernstein mentioned that he had a book coming out on Leo Strauss and I was immediately curious to know about him so I sat down to learn. I always find it fascinating how much one sentence can make you think and here I found myself contemplating almost every thought and while this might be time consuming but it was what I had been trained to do as a philosophy major.

My own knowledge of Strauss is sparse—we learned about him a bit in my youth group many years ago and then in college I took a survey course in Jewish thinkers and we spent a lecture on him. I had not thought about him in years so this book was a reawakening about not just Strauss but to the history of philosophy. Strauss is a classic study of order as it emanates from “revealed law” (Jerusalem) and philosophical thought (Athens).

Bernstein’s basis for his study includes the study of published texts, Strauss’s intellectual biography, history and correspondence, archival material and transcripts from seminars. What we really see is that the relation between Judaism and philosophy is evident throughout his career and his influence on both of these cannot be overestimated.

In his introduction, Bernstein states that Strauss believed that the search for wisdom was tantamount. His approach was nondogmatic—he would take a philosophical stance and would state the limitations of that position. He was not what is known as a neutral thinker and regarded as a radical thinker. He was able to get to the gist of the problem while showing it to be either derivative or fundamental. With this approach added to the fact that he did not give his own positions, he was indeed not neutral. Strauss explains this by saying that Western civilization is fundamental tense because it is the life between two codes. We can only live life if we live the conflict. Man cannot be both theologian and philosopher—he must choose one over the other with the theologian being open to what philosophy provides and the philosopher being open to theological concepts.

The Strauss that Bernstein gives us is (and I use Bernstein’s language) “one who recollects the premodern understanding of the theological-political problem and Jerusalem and Athens”, one who “appreciates the eminently philosophical stance of being a citizen of one city while remaining on the border of the other city” and one who “attempts to recover and reoriginate these two philosophical stances through the practice of reading, writing and showing how they are, in fact, possible today.

Obviously this is a test for academics and I do not believe that this is the kind of book one would read in bed. There is a lot of information in some 228 pages but even more important is the fact that this is book that leads us to think. While not written for the layman, it is a book that anyone can look at but understanding will come only over time and synthesis of what is contained therein. To give you an idea if what the book contains, below is a copy of the table of contents:

Table of Contents




Part I. On the Way to Jerusalem and Athens

  1. The Theological-Political Problem, Strauss’s Critique of Modern “Jewish Philosophy,” and the Legacy of Kant
  2. Strauss’s Maimonides

Part II. Jerusalem and Athens in Deed

  1. Philosophy as a Platonic Dialogue, or Jerusalem and Athens in Jerusalem


  1. The Theological-Political Significance of “What Is Political Philosophy?”

Part III. Conclusion


  1. The Transmission of Philosophy as a Way of Life: Maimonides Viewed Through a Spinozan Lens






stop the pounding heart

“Stop the Pounding Heart”

In the Rural South

Amos Lassen

Sara is a home-schooled young girl and one of twelve children who finds her values challenged after meeting Colby, an amateur bull rider. She lives in a family of goat farmers; a family that follows the precepts of the Bible. Like her sisters, Sara has been taught to be a devout woman, subservient to men, while keeping her emotional and physical purity intact until marriage. When Sara meets Colby, a young amateur bull rider, she finds herself in crisis, questioning the only way of life she has ever known. ”Stop the Pounding Heart’ is a look at rural America and its insular communities. The film explores adolescence, family and social values, gender roles, and religion in the rural American South. Director Robert Minervini uses a film method of looking inward into the lives of his characters and he brings us a sensitive film about a world that most of us do not know or are even aware of. He uses fundamentals of neo-realism and cinema verite as he deals with issues of faith and family and personal conviction as these are experienced by a contemporary adolescent girl who is beginning to question her life.


Sara is a young girl raised in a family of goat farmers. Her parents home school their twelve children, rigorously following the precepts of the Bible. Like her sisters, Sara is taught to be a devout woman, subservient to men while keeping her emotional and physical purity intact until marriage. When Sara meets Colby, a young amateur bull rider, she is thrown into crisis, questioning the only way of life she has ever known. In a stunning portrayal of contemporary America and the insular communities that dot its landscape, Stop the Pounding Heart is an exploration of adolescence, family and social values, gender roles, and religion in the rural American South.

stop2The film stars non-professional actors; teenagers who are versions of themselves, Sara Carlson and Colby Trichell. They become part of a love triangle in rural Waller, Texas and while this is an important aspect of the film, the focus is actually on the themes of femininity, theology, and domesticity. We are very aware of the flirtations and sexual tension between Sara and Colby from early on. Colby also is entranced by Tayler (Tayler LaFlash), a talented fellow bull rider. Colby’s life has been dominated by guns, backyard wrestling, and riding practice, among other “masculine” activities, none of which interests Sara even though she has a primal attraction to him. We them look at how Sara’s home life and her father’s strident Christianity is questioned and reformed through her interactions with Colby and her inability to deal with the faith. The heart of the film is the struggle that comes out of raising and teaching young women to adhere to a faith that clearly values them less than their male counterparts.


The feminism that we see here is one that comes out of hard work and intuitiveness. This comes to the family through the mother’s home-schooling bible study that brings up fascinating discussion and, eventually, dissent especially when Sara’s sisters criticize her intentions to never marry. At the end of the film we see Sara tearfully admitting to her mother that she doesn’t know how to be a “good Christian” and as we think about that we realize that questioning seems to hang over the entire movie. Minervini cares about Sara’s doubt and is totally empathetic to Sara’s struggle with coming to an answer she can accept. Her fear and apprehension about taking part in the advances that Colby makes is certainly the result of her own uncertainty. Sara’s rebellion is both respectful and respectable.

stop 3.5

The main focus of the film is on the Carlsons, a family of goat farmers that sell their dairy products at farmers’ markets. The parents, Leeanne (Leeanne Carlson) and Tim (Tim Carlson) have raised their twelve children, explicitly by the laws of the Bible. They live almost as sparsely as the Amish with lots and lots and lots of discussions about Jesus. When Sara meets Colby her attraction to him makes her begin to question the way she’s been brought up. Although, you’d never guess how she feels based Her mother teaches her about the helpfulness of doubt and that being a Christian isn’t easy. Yet Sara and her sisters are told time and again that woman is made from man and that they must remain subservient and that being submissive doesn’t mean being weak.


Some may find it hard to believe that today in America there are still isolated communities that exist in the ways we see here. All of the characters here actually play themselves, and keep their real names and this makes the line between reality and fiction even thinner. It is indeed frustrating to see how women are portrayed in this community and they continue being submissive to men. We can see that this kind of conditioning is the result of reading and rereading the same material over and over and that alternative ways of thinking as well as people who live a different life style are never introduced. Therefore, for Sara, it only took one meeting with Colby to understand that something is amiss in the Christian teachings she has had to live with. Sara then becomes, for the viewer, a young woman who desires something more but is left behind. The ending of the film, therefore, signifies that Sara and her family continue to regress while holding on to a past that does not exist any longer. holding on staunchly to a past that no longer exists.


One of the reviews that I read from the Cannes film festival where the movie premiered says that the film is a “hybrid of documentary and unscripted narrative depicting real people in an insular rural community”. This is a wonderful way to regard this film.

The main conflict of the film does not come up until a good bit of time has passed and then only in subdued terms. Some may find it to be paced too slowly but it is engrossing nonetheless. Minervini’s character development is amazing especially regarding Sara and Colby. Colby is a “skinny, sweet-natured cowboy who’s all sinew but no muscle, he needs focus and determination to master his rodeo skills and avoid injury”. Sara is “a born nurturer with a special feeling for animals, she holds sacred beliefs yet at the same time is needled by doubts and fears that she’s unable to articulate, which her mother assures her are an inevitable part of the battle for inner peace”. Sara is emotionally transparent and innately spiritual.


We do not often get films of such beauty as “Stop the Pounding Heart”, I see it as more of a total experience than just a film.