Adding to his anxiety is the fact that Mendel feels shut out of family secrets, hidden in photos he’s forbidden to see. When he finally learns what the pictures contain — horrifying shots of the camps, and the identity of his brother’s real father — he starts sharing the older folks’ nightmares. This brings him into conflict with the local culture, which he had longed to be part of. His pride wounded by his belief that the Jews passively allowed themselves to be slaughtered, he becomes obsessed with bravery and turns into a bully.
Rosler, a veteran documaker who has made many films for children, brings home complex, adult issues in simple ways. Along with Norway’s peace and safety come Jesus and Santa Claus, which neither Mendel’s atheist father (Hans Kremer) nor the hyper-orthodox neighbor (Wolfgang Pintzka) can stomach. It is easy to sympathize with the sensitive Mendel as he strives, while growing up in a foreign land, to understand who he is and what his religious background means.
Hardly a cute tyke, Sorensen plays Mendel with the aggressive stubbornness of a born rebel. German stage thesp Kremer makes a strong-minded father, fond of telling endearing, if not terribly funny, jokes. Teresa Harder is a positive force as Mendel’s beautiful, tough mother, who sings her kids to sleep as they make the transition from “subhumans to refugees.” Tech credits are serviceable.