Odd trio make ‘Magic’ in Shoah-linked quest

Makram Khoury, Ariane Labed and Zohar Strauss star in ‘Magic Men,’ part of the 2015 St. Louis Jewish Film Festival. 

By Cate Marquis, Special to the Jewish Light

“Magic Men” is an excellent Israeli film, partly in English, about Avraham Kofinas (Makram Khoury), a Greek-born Shoah survivor living in Be’er Tuvia, Israel, who is having a life crisis after the death of his wife. 

Refusing to let his Orthodox son Yehuda (Zohar Strauss), a musician who performs religious-themed rap songs, recite kaddish for her at the funeral, the stubbornly secular Avraham goes home to his empty house. When he tries to turn a photo of his late wife to face the wall, he finds a CD taped to the back of it. It turns out to be a music video of his Orthodox rapper son performing with his band in concert, and Avraham angrily shuts off the video.

Avraham gets an unexpected chance to return to his birth country when he’s asked to participate in a “sister city” ceremony. Unbeknownst to Avraham, the community leaders are also sending his son, given his father’s poor health. When father and son find themselves face-to-face in Greece at the airport, it does not go well, and Avraham takes off on his own. Almost immediately, he decides to use the trip for his own purpose — to find the non-Jewish Greek magician who saved him during the Shoah and repay his kindness.

Meanwhile, Yehuda has his own reasons to accompany his father. Rather than a longing to reconnect, Yehuda has been told by his rabbi that he must make peace with Avraham in order to have a son (after having four daughters). The son’s adoption of an Orthodox life is a barrier between them in his secular father’s eyes, and we gradually discover the real reason behind that. 

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The film offers beautiful photography of scenic Greek locations, along with a sly, dry wit.

In the hotel bar, Avraham imagines a TV announcer saying that the Greek magician is looking for him. A young woman named Maria (Ariane Labed), who turns out to be the hotel prostitute, strikes up a conversation but then offers to help find the magician, launching an unlikely platonic friendship. 

There is a touch of Walter Mitty to Avraham’s imaginings, and Keatonesque silent movie comedy in the humor in this surprising, funny, ultimately touching film. 

Putting things right is a theme of “Magic Men,” which evolves into a kind of road-trip movie as the three travel to where the sister-city ceremony — the nearly forgotten reason for the trip —  is to take place and in search of the magician. It’s a delightful, well-acted and original film with a warm, funny, human story. 

‘Magic Men’

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Monday, June 8 

Running time: 1:40

MORE INFO: In English, Greek and Hebrew, with English subtitles