Family Secret

(English, French, Romanian dialogue)

(English, French, Romanian dialogue)

Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and unconventional than some of the director’s previous experimental work — most notably “Broken Meat,” her 1990 portrait of Beat poet Alan Granville — this personal essay doesn’t quite deliver the emotional rewards it promises, but is sufficiently engrossing to land festival and TV dates.

After a lifetime’s mission to find his father, 54-year-old Pierre Radulescu-Banu makes contact with Rapaport, hesitantly informing her of their shared parentage. Their father, who died 25 years earlier, was a secretive man whose last words reportedly were, “Be discreet.” Perhaps due to the lasting effects of Gestapo persecution, he revealed little about his past, either in Romania or in Paris, where he lived before emigrating to America. The tendency of Rapaport’s mother to ask no questions placed an additional veil over the past.

This aspect of withheld information among couples, families and generations emerges as the film’s primary theme, a trait carried over into Pierre’s relationship with his son, a student at MIT. The other important theme is separation, underlined in the letters, excerpted in voiceover, between Rapaport’s father and his parents, whom he corresponded with for 40 years but never saw again.

Mixing B&W and color, archival footage and video, Rapaport pieces together the material into a smoothly edited account of her father’s past and that of Pierre, chronicling his trip to Staten Island to stay with her family and her journey with him back to Romania and Paris.

While the fulfillment of Pierre’s long-cherished wish to make contact with his father’s family clearly represents the film’s natural conclusion, docu fails to reflect on what kind of lasting impact the discovery will have on either family and, consequently, seems short on final-act emotional revelations. But despite this, “Family Secret” offers a unique and intimate view of war, displacement and immigration as the 20th century’s great dividers.

Family Secret

(DOCU -- U.S.-FRANCE)

Production: A Blinding Light (New York)/Morgane Production (Paris)/La Sept Arte (Paris) production. (International sales: Jane Balfour Films, London; U.S. sales: Magnet Media, New York.) Produced by Pola Rapaport, Edgard Tenembaum. Directed, written, edited by Pola Rapaport. Camera (color/B&W), Wolfgang Held; music, Guy Klucevsek, Loren Toolajian; sound, Michael Primmer. Reviewed at Rotterdam Film Festival (Main Program), Feb. 3, 2000. Running time: 58 MIN.

More Film

  • American Animals

    Sundance 2018: Films, Stars & Cultural Moments Gain Early Buzz on Twitter

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

  • Human Affairs

    Slamdance Kicks Off, Prepares to Debut Its Russo Brothers Fellowship

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

  • PGA Honorees 2018

    PGA Honorees Sound Off on Risk, Reward and Storytelling

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

  • Valerian Movie

    French Cinema Box Office Overseas Rebounds in 2017

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

  • Logan Lerman

    Logan Lerman in Talks to Play Dan Rather in JFK Drama 'Newsflash'

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

  • Get Out

    ‘Get Out’ Channeled the Changing Zeitgeist in Exposing Racial Unease

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

  • donna langley

    Donna Langley on Universal Success and the 'Fate of the Movie Gods'

    (English, French, Romanian dialogue) Family Secret” documents New York filmmaker Pola Rapaport’s discovery, via an unexpected letter from Romania, of a half-brother she never knew she had. As the title suggests, the film looks at the lasting ties of family and the power of secrecy to obstruct, but not sever, those ties. Less distinctive and […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content