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Dhaka Tribune

Just like your old man

Update : 03 Mar 2015, 06:00 PM

If you’ve ever wondered whether there could be such a thing as an academic thriller, here it is. Anyone who has spent some time in the hallways of academia knows that university politics can be nasty, petty, and brutal.

The Israeli film Footnotes (2011) is funny, and a little bit heartbreaking at the same time, as it shows the academic rivalry between a Talmudic scholar and his hipper, more popular son. This is a little gem of a movie that might easily slip through the cracks in your to-watch list, but don’t let it. It was nominated for the Academy Award for best foreign film for 2011, but was defeated rightfully by Asghar Farhadi’s more serious A Separation.

Professor Eliezer Shkolnik is an aging professor at the department of Talmudic research at the prestigious Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He takes his research seriously, has no patience for populist works that appeal to younger people, and is hopelessly old school. He is, in other words, a dinosaur.

His son Uriel, on the other hand, is popular. Uriel writes books that actually sell. While Shkolnik Sr is tired of being passed over for awards he believes he deserves, Uriel gets them without even trying.

You’d think a father would be happy for this son. Not this old grouch, who thinks his son’s brand of research is really just bubble gum scholarship, and not really serious academic work at all.

Eliezer’s miserable existence is disrupted when he gets a call from the government. What ensues is a game between father and son that is intense, suspenseful, funny, and tragic, all at the same time. Everybody wants a little recognition. Academics are not above this desire.

Footnotes shows the struggles of a man standing by his life’s work, against a world that no longer has any use for it. It is a treat to finally to see a film that deals so engrossingly with subject matter that is often deemed too dull for the movies. 

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