Sundance 2019: Abe

Noah Schnapp appears in Abe by Fernando Grostein Andrade, an official selection of the Kids program at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. Photo by Alex Korolkovas.

A tribute to the cultural melting pot, Abe is about a 12-year-old kid known as Abraham, Avram, and Ibrahim but he’d rather simply be known as Abe.

“I don’t think he’ll ever be Jewish or Muslim enough for these people,” Amir (Arian Moayed) tells Rebecca (Dagmara Domińczyk) of their son, Abe (Noah Schnapp).

Both of Abe’s parents are both agnostic.  One can seemingly guess that this doesn’t sit well with either of their families.  He’s turning 12 years old and the likelihood is strong that the birthday dinner will be yet another disaster.  As a result, the foodie searches the web and comes upon Chico’s (Seu Jorge) Mix It Up Pop-Up.

Have you ever dealt with the pressures of growing up and dealing with Jewish grandparents?    Nothing (or nobody) is ever good enough for them!  There’s a point in the film where Abe decides to run away to Chico’s kitchen.  I could totally understand why.  The pressure to be the perfect grandchild reached the point where it was too much to handle.  It’s hard to be perfect in the eyes of one culture let alone two!  Hell, I would have done the same thing if I knew where to run off to!

There are dysfunctional families and then are DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES.  The family depicted in Abe is highly dysfunctional.  While I don’t want to be one to judge, if there is a film that stresses against intermarriage, this is it.  No matter what our titular character decides to do, nobody in his family is going to be happy.  Not the Jewish Israeli side nor the Palestinian Muslim side.

Director Fernando Grostein Andrade–whose grandparents escaped Europe in the 1930s–makes this his first English-language feature film.  He collaborates on the story here with a pair of Palestinian American screenwriters.  I should stress that nobody is looking to solve the never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict through this film.  It might possibly turn into “World War Falafel and shit” as one of the characters in the film puts it so bluntly.

This isn’t a film that claims to solve the Middle East conflict nor is it trying to.  It’s simply a film about a 12-year-old kid having a major identity crisis.  He turns to food as a way of hoping to unite his family.  This isn’t to say that it always works but it isn’t for the lack of trying.  One can only take a look at Abe with the hope (or Hatikvah) that things such as food can bring our two peoples together (disclaimer: I’m Jewish).

DIRECTOR:  Fernando Grostein Andrade
SCREENWRITERS:  Lameece Issaq & Jacob Kader
CAST:  Noah Schnapp, Seu Jorge, Dagmara Domińczyk, Arian Moayed, Tom Mardirosian, Salem Murphy, Daniel Oreskes, and Mark Margolis

Abe holds its world premiere during the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in the Kids program. Grade: 3.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.