Though the multicultural influences on Venice made the city a magic melting pot, the various ingredients helmer Carlo Hintermann throws into docu “Chatzer: Inside Jewish Venice” stubbornly refuse to meld. Film gets distracted by too many tangential ideas and, while each may be fascinating, Hintermann has difficulty balancing main ideas with minor asides. Still, popular subject matter and enough engrossing material should keep this in solid play on the Jewish fest merry-go-round.
As a rich mercantile city-state, Venice attracted Jews of all nationalities forced to live in the world’s first official ghetto in the early 16th century. Venice’s insularity suited its Jewish residents, who maintained a separate identity within the greater context of the city and yet still managed to weave themselves into its fabric. Hintermann interviews young and old, each discussing historical and contemporary problems of the dwindling community and their relationship to the city. However, the recent arrival of an ultra-orthodox Hasidic sect is given too much emphasis — most Venetian Jews see them as interlopers — and Polish actor Olek Mincer’s Yiddish shtick never grafts itself onto the main story. Nineteenth-century reconstructions are weak, narration more insightful.