MASEL TOV COCKTAIL: A Short film about Jewish stereotypes…Or just an angry Jew
A scene from Masel Tov Cocktail (Vimeo)
“You got that asshole right. I’m a Jew. A real, living Jew”
“In most [German] movies Jews are shown in black and white. We rarely strike back. But this is not that kind of movie”. This is the statement viewers are confronted with in the opening scene of Masel Tov Cocktail, the 30-minute satirical short-film directed by the esteemed and highly talented Arkadij Khaet and Mickey Paatzsch. Guided by an uncompromising, yet witty and tongue-in-cheek Alexander Wertmann [playing “Dima”], this explosive film blows up Jewish stereotypes and leaves you checking yourselves when the credits roll, until you immediately give it another watch.
Masel Tov Cocktail reeks of a fiery satire, with inspiration drawn from action flicks and tragedies. The steady, yet unpredictable and jarring camerawork keeps you at the edge of your seats, until all escalates at the end. As the film starts with a stunning bang, it closes with a satisfying boom. Thus far, Masel Tov Cocktail has received rave reviews, winning over juries at a myriad of film festivals for its bold social commentary, charming, yet confrontational personality and excellent filmmaking all-round. Just as it is has already played and won big at film festivals in Moscow, Atlanta, Cleveland and Berlin, have a watch over at Vimeo and witness one of the best – if not THE best – short films of the year.
But before you continue reading, ask yourself the following question: what do you know, as in, really know about Judaism / Jewish people and their respective culture? Whether you are well-read up on the deeper corners of Jewish history and culture, or if your sole reference point is the Shoah (Holocaust), how do you feel about it? It is perhaps these questions that form the core of this fantastically insightful film, whilst telling an urgent story that warrants the start of a conversation and discussion.
The film opens (Clip 1) with the adverse situation in which Tobias, the school bully, makes an anti-Semitic remark towards a fellow student, only for him to follow up with a gross rendition of someone suffocating from a gas chamber and casually laugh it off as a “just kidding”. At this point, we all are more or less familiar with the history surrounding the plight of Jewish people and specifically the Holocaust. It so happens that the fellow student is our main protagonist, 19-year old Dimitrij Liebermann / “Dima”, the self-proclaimed German citizen of Russian-Jewish descent who surely is aware of antisemitism, but wonders why he is thought of in that vein despite being a German citizen. In subverting the awkward genre conventions ascribed to Jews in German movies, Dima (rightfully) knocks out Tobias with a clean punch, kicking off the film with a relentless bang. From here on out, Dima breaks down the fourth wall and lets the viewers in on the (sometimes vexatious) experience of a Jew in contemporary times, whilst taking the time to even enlighten you with the one or other fact, insight or perspective you probably missed in school. And before any of you smartarses go off the rails, claiming that you have learned about the Shoah and are maddened that I and especially those involved in this film are being patronising; do consider that Khaet and Paatzsch see the way in which we speak about [Jewish people] and treat history of [Jewish people] as problematic.
55% of all Germans want to draw a line under the chapter of the Third Reich
But is it even possible to start a conversation about “these” Jewish people beyond the past? Masel Tov Cocktail shows how this is not that simple. Despite the question being fundamentally ill-informed and perhaps even downright stupid, Dima himself expresses how he would like to move on and live his life as whoever he would like to be without being constantly hassled by his fellows. Whether it is their bigotry or discomfort in interacting with Jewish people, they ultimately fail to consider the nuances behind his and potentially many others’ Jewish identity.
While the film is bold, straightforward and even confrontational, it takes great care in describing the state of affairs of Jewish people to the audience in an informative and [occasionally] positively enlightening way. It cleverly breaks down stereotypes whilst poking fun at several layers of society who are responsible for perpetuating them. Dima takes aim at everyone left, right and centre: the bigots, the indifferent centrists, overly apologetic and guilt-ridden Germans [cringe!!], and especially the far-right politicians who now pander to Jewish citizens.
“right and left anti-Semitism; Antisemitism of Centrists, Christians, Muslims; Anti-Judaism; Anti-Zionism; Political, Cultural, National Atheist, Primary and Secondary Antisemitism”
It is clear who the film is aimed at and why these issues warrant calling out the one or other individual for his/her/their bigotry or ignorance and reliance on clichés in understanding someone of another religion & culture. It could even possibly occur to you that you have said or made one of the false assumptions that Dima is drawing attention to. If you can acknowledge that and / or are willing to be better and not treat Jewish individuals as more than a cliché, then I reckon that might be okay – I cannot speak on behalf of any Jewish individual here. Yet if you feel patronised or offended… Good, because then your indignant arse is part of the problem.