By Talia Schenkel (Professor Emerita, Baruch College,
New York, New York; Animation Film Historian)
Excerpts from an article appearing in the ASIFA-Canada Bulletin:Vol.22 July1994
In THE COLOURS OF MY FATHER Joyce Borenstein passes on her father’s stories and she does so with such heart, pride, and skill that the film becomes not only an act of homage from artist to artist, but a gift of love from daughter to father.
For Joyce, her father was “a kind of magician” who through his art could transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Joyce too is “a kind of magician” and there are moments in this film when the poetry and enchantment she creates make me gasp each time I experience them. In these moments we move from the mundane to the spiritual, from the domestic to the political, and live-action, drawings, stills, and newsreel footage collaborate in a rich visual texture.
At the end of the film, Sam Borenstein is telling of his life as an artist and a father. He tells how his children practiced piano while he painted and we watch as a black and white photo of the living room/studio transforms into what the music felt like to him. The black piano key becomes the violin he always wanted to play and then a cello, and within the cello we glimpse the blazingly bright world of his painting – all done in a slow tracking deeper and deeper into the heart of the painter’s world. We go on a journey of feeling the father’s pleasure in hearing his child make music to his own childhood love of the violin, to his self-realization through his painting. Only a poet can take us through such a journey of a lifetime in an instant.
In a culture where we tend to devalue the expression of emotion, especially on the part of men, in THE COLOURS OF MY FATHER, Joyce glories in her father’s enthusiasm and passion as it comes through in his life and his art. She enables her father to live on, through poetry on film, resonating on the personal level as well as in the realm of the universal.
In the mystical Jewish tradition of Kabbalah, there exists the concept of “tikkun olam” – the belief that the world is made up of shattered fragments, each reflecting sparks of the divine light from which they originated – and it is the work of each one of us through our deeds in the world to seek out, gather, and restore these fragments, and to make things whole again. THE COLOURS OF MY FATHER surely is engaged in “tikkun olam” – and the world is surely a better place for its having been made. I, for one, am inspired by it and deeply grateful for it.