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film review

The documentary Aida’s Secrets untangles how a Jewish family mysteriously scattered post-War.

Brothers Alon and Shaul Schwarz's documentary Aida's Secrets may have you postponing plans to poke into your family's genealogy.

The riddle begins in the postwar Bergen-Belsen camp for displaced Jews where Aida is married with two sons, Izak and Shepsyl. The eldest boy, Izak, was sent by Aida to Israel to live with a foster family. Shepsyl, who was born visually impaired, ends up living in Winnipeg with his father. Not until they're both in their late 60s do they realize they're siblings. After a tearful reunion, they begin a frustrating quest that leaves them with far more questions than answers. The reunited pair find another long-lost brother – among other unsettling things. As the secrets pile up, 89-year-old Aida remains tight-lipped, staring blankly when asked tough questions, like why she gave Shep away.

The debut doc is an ambitious attempt to get to the root of a tangled family tree, but the directors' close relationship to Izak (he's their uncle) means they sometimes pay so much attention to the genealogical minutiae that a viewer checks in and out to clear her head.

Aida's Secrets opens Jan. 12 in Toronto.