Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Praying with Lior" - review

This was sitting in the draft status for some time now - I dusted it off changed a word or two and cleared it out of the queue.

Over the weekend I scored with Netflix, "Praying with Lior."  There is a large volume of items on Netflix and I have been chasing documentaries and enjoying about 80% of them.  The enjoyment I draw is from getting information, hearing someone's story, and then pondering those two items and their combination.

Lior is a boy with down syndrome in an Orthodox Jewish family.  As a toddler on his mother's knee, he sought songs of prayer over "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" or the ABCs. 

The film builds to his Bah mitzvah where he must lead a prayer.  Throughout there is interactions with Synagogue members, classmates at the Jewish school, and with his family. 

I'm about to ruin the documentary with some of the inner details.  I shouldn't say ruin but it will inoculate you or probably lead the emotional train down the tracks I'm about to lay out.  I thought this was well done and I felt for the people.

Synagogue folks seem to look on him with awe and admiration.  That there is some blessing that he has the inside track on.  They ask for his advice on spiritual matters.  To many he is a prodigy.  Later the documentary has the father working with Lior on his prayer.  In some of the basic questions it is very clear that Lior is parroting back things he has heard and isn't really processing them.

The classmate interactions are rough.  Lior leads them in a rousing prayer/song where I was amazed by the emotion and energy everyone was putting forward.  I can't imagine my middle school soccer team being that enthusiastic about anything.  Later some of the classmates talk about the difficult interactions with Lior.  He's the last pick at games; the social cliques seem nice out of pity or even one joke shy of ridicule.  An outsider.

The family is where the heart of this documentary rings out.  Lior laughs, teases and is teased by his siblings.  Lior plays video games and ignores his brother getting ready "yeah, you look great" which his brother rightly calls him out on.  Then Lior stops, fixes his brother's hair, and tells him "it is perfect, don't let anyone touch it".  There is also a special bond that Lior holds with his stepmother (his mom died when he was about 5) and she realizes (and so does he) that she isn't a replacement but a new mother to love him just as much.

Probably "No prophet (or prodigy) is welcome in his home town" and I'm also thinking "there is no welcoming home, like a home with a loving family". 

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